LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Victims' advocates say Laura's Cards, an important tool available for Arkansans facing domestic violence and abuse is greatly underutilized.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced more than 100,000 Laura's Cards had been printed and distributed to law enforcement across the state since its unveiling in February 2016.
A Laura's Card is a small, discreet pamphlet listing the rights and resources available to domestic violence victims.
By law, any officer investigating domestic violence must provide that victim with information about their rights and how to get help. However, there's no mandate that they hand out the official Laura's Card printed and provided by the state.
According to Angela McGraw, executive director of Women and Children first, that's how many of the cards end up slipping through the cracks. Women and Children's First is one of the state's largest shelters for domestic violence victims.
"I know that, statewide, there's a lot of [agencies] that aren't actually distributing them," McGraw said.
A key resource on the Laura's Card is the phone number to Women and Children First's crisis hotline, an immediate way to seek intervention. McGraw says more than 7,200 calls have come into that hotline so far this year. Of those, a mere 25 were referrals from Laura's Cards.
"So we still have a lot of work to do on getting those Laura's Cards distributed out to victims," she said. "That goes from law enforcement's hands to victims' hands."
Currently, no women staying at Women and Children First's shelter came there because of a Laura's Card. We spoke to one woman who said having such a comprehensive resource would have greatly helped her.
"If someone had just placed this resource in my hand, I would have just been able to pick up the phone and call immediately," said the victim, who wanted to remain anonymous. "I think if I never had called them, I don't know how my life would be right now."
McGraw says the key will be helping to better educate law enforcement. She's been collaborating with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office on connecting more women with cards.
"I know we're ust talking about a pamphlet, but on the flip side it's really giving them a lot of information," she said. "It's giving them power."
Empowering victims to move forward with the resources to move on.
Some agencies print their own versions of the cards. PCSO, for example, provides a rather comparable alternative to the AG's Laura's Card. Unfortunately, McGraw says not every agency prints cards that are as comprehensive or discreet, which are two key aspects of the Laura's Card.
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