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Support for victims of domestic abuse available at Russellville Police Department

Officers and advocates with River Valley Shelter are dedicated to breaking any stigma between law enforcement and victims.

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Victims of domestic violence will have a new place to go for help— and it's part of a collaboration between River Valley Shelter and their local police department. 

"There's somebody out there that cares about them and is willing to help them restart and empower them to have a new life," said Linda Bankston, a victim advocate.

That's what Bankston will do for domestic violence victims who come into her office at the Russellville Police Department. 

The collaboration between the shelter and law enforcement may only be a week old, but Bankston believes that it will benefit a lot of people. 

She will help victims develop personal safety plans and protection orders, plus help with legal aid if needed.

"It encompasses pretty much individually what each individual person needs," she said.

Bankston is also dedicated to breaking any stigma between officers and victims. 

"With us here, we're able to hold the hand of the victim while they're talking with the officers. And it kind of helped ease that relationship with them," she explained.

Police Chief David Ewing said that her presence in the station also helps his officers. 

"Our focus is to do our best to find justice in that case, or hold someone accountable for that case, with advocacy here. With Linda here, I think what's important here is, her focus is the victim. It's not the criminal case like it is with the detectives or with officers on the street," he explained.

Officer Ewing also added that the department gets about 30 domestic violence reports a month. 

"Now I have that right person in the building that can be for anybody in the city of Russellville or in the River Valley period," he said.

Mandy Geels, director of River Valley Shelter, came up with the idea and said it's been exciting to see it come to life. 

"It's been in my head for years. But I really didn't know it was a possibility to have an office in the police department. And he came up with that he offered that and it's been a blessing to us," Geels said.

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