The Purple Flower names new board president
Bobby Engles, an investigator with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, was recently named board president of The Purple Flower, the only domestic violence resource center in Carroll County. Engles’ decision to join the board a year ago was personal — like many people, he experienced domestic violence as a child.
“I was raised in a very domestic violent household in the ’80s when people wanted to keep everything in the house … they wanted to keep everything quiet and they didn’t want cops at their house,” Engles said. “But if you’re going through something like this, keeping it in and trying to maintain it, it only gets worse. You have to speak up.”
Engles said that’s what The Purple Flower is here for, to support the survivors of domestic violence when they speak up and get ready to leave dangerous situations.
“I was raised where we weren’t going to tell anybody. We just kept it in our family,” Engles said. “It didn’t get any better. It got worse.”
When Engles joined The Purple Flower’s board of directors, he saw how much the organization does in the community. Executive director Michelle Davis explained that The Purple Flower isn’t like other nonprofits in the community where its activities are public information — to protect its clients, the organization keeps much of its day-to-day work private.
“We can’t share stories, but it’s really important to not forget us about here in Berryville and know that we really, really help the community,” Davis said.
Engles said he lived in Carroll County for nearly a year before he knew about The Purple Flower.
“There’s still a lot of people that don’t,” Davis said.
Located at 109 W. Church Ave. in Berryville, The Purple Flower was founded in 2014 to offer various services to Carroll County residents dealing with domestic violence. Today, the services include a 24/7 crisis hotline, emergency assistance for victims in crisis, support and advocacy services for survivors and their children, a domestic violence dynamics and safety planning education class by referral, a seven-step empowerment and education program, an empowerment support group, outreach to teens and their parents, pet fostering for survivors needing to temporarily relocate, therapeutic art and yoga classes and education and training for professionals, community partners and volunteers.
Advocate Margo Elliott, who has worked with the organization for the past four or five years, said she takes time to read the information about a case before stepping in as an advocate during trial.
“Right now, I’m the one that goes to court with people,” Elliott said. “I try to research because a lot of them don’t get their protective order written through us. We meet them the first time in court.”
When someone comes by the office, Elliott said, she always shows them the list of red flags that indicate they are being abused. That list includes behavior such as extreme jealousy, constant putdowns, controlling where the victim goes, who they talk to or their appearance, an explosive temper, pressuring or forcing sex, threatening to hurt the victim, family, friends or pets and more. There are many signs of abuse, Elliott said, besides physically hurting someone.
“I show them the red flags and they check off almost every one, and they have no idea that’s a thing that lots of people go through,” Elliott said.
Sometimes, advocates help someone who returns to their abuser. Davis said it’s important to remain non-judgmental and always provide a supportive environment for those who seek help.
“It’s all in their own timing and their path,” Davis said. “We’re just here to help them.”
Davis said the organization serves between 15 and 16 clients per month, but that number jumped to 36 this past July.
“That’s kind of subsided now,” Davis said. “We’re back to our average. No matter how many clients we serve, our first priority is to get them to a safe, private place. When we can help them with a protective order and support them in court … those are the cases that stand out to me.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Davis said, and The Purple Flower is delighted to be the recipient of Gotahold Brewing’s Transformation Thursdays, held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Thursday in October.
Another big supporter of The Purple Flower, Davis said, is Carroll County Sheriff Jim Ross. Engles said he’s honored to be part of a law enforcement agency that works so hard to protect local families.
“The sheriff has been great. He came to visit us and we sat down and talked to him,” Davis said. “That’s the first time we had that kind of representation come to our office. He’s a good supporter of our agency.”
Engles said law enforcement has dramatically evolved when it comes to addressing domestic violence. Today, Engles said, officers are extensively trained on the topic.
“They spend more and more time getting down to the nuts and bolts of domestic violence and help us look for those clues that this isn’t a verbal argument,” Engles said. “This is a controlling situation that’s physically violent, and someone is too scared to say anything. That’s why when we show up to a domestic violence situation, the first thing we do is separate the parties.”
Engles continued, “It’s not because we’re trying to get anyone in trouble. We’re trying to protect the possible victim. Law enforcement as a whole, especially in the state of Arkansas, is really moving forward with how we’re looking at domestic violence.”