Finding a Voice
Every 60 seconds, 20 Americans—men and women—are physically abused by an intimate partner. That equates to more than 10 million individuals who are injured by the person with whom they are closest.* Just as startling: half of all homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners. They are daughters, sisters, mothers and grandmothers like Stacy Jo Moss.
By Angela E. Thomas
Stacy Jo and Bobby Don Moss were married for 16 years. Stacy Jo’s daughter Brandi Strickland said the two had a typical courtship and married in 2000. Initially Moss was a great stepfather, Strickland said. The three got along well. However, the newlyweds moved to Moss’ hometown of McRae, and within six months, “it all went downhill,” and Moss became abusive.
Strickland said Moss became abusive toward Stacy Jo late in 2001.
“Bob didn’t like children”—he had two children, but they didn’t live with him—“and I’d come to live with Mom. He was a hard man, very manipulative. He ‘played the part’ in front of others, but behind closed doors, I was a problem, money-wise, food-wise. He didn’t want to take care of someone else’s kids,” Strickland said.
When Moss became abusive, Strickland fought back. "I only lived with them for about six months. I moved in with my uncle [then, later, with my grandmother]. I was back and forth for a while, depending on the circumstances.”
In 2004, Stacy Jo, who battle diabetes and high blood pressure, suffered a stroke. The combination caused her to become disabled, and Moss took advantage of this.
“Bob controlled everything. Nothing was ever really Mom’s—her disability checks were his,” Strickland said. She isn’t certain when their drug use began; however, looking back, she knows they lived in poverty as Moss was unable to keep a steady job.
Strickland said Stacy Jo was admitted to the hospital numerous times due to her chronic illness; she’d get clean and take her medications properly and do well.
“But then she’d get back with Bob and the next thing you know they were using again.”
The marriage deteriorated, and the couple split. Eventually, the two reunited and remarried in 2008.
In the summer of 2016, Moss spent several months in jail due to nonpayment of child support. His mother, who’d been in hospice passed away and Moss was released. In anticipation of his release, Stacy Jo used her money to get Moss’ home ready, reconnecting utilities, paying his insurance and so forth. Moss, according to witnesses, accused Stacy Jo of pawning a laptop that had been in the house. The two fought, and at some point, between Aug. 5 and the morning of Aug. 6, Moss killed Stacy Jo.
On the morning of Aug. 6, 2016, a roommate called police because he’d found the 51-year-old underneath Moss’ car. Police arrived to find Moss inside the home. He admitted to the crime.
Strickland was, of course, devastated. When she saw the news coverage of events surrounding her mother’s death, she couldn’t believe it.
“It looked like Mom was just an addict. I called FOX16 and spoke with reporter Isabella Moeller. I needed them to know she was more than that. She was a mother and a grandmother. I didn’t want her memory to be just that. Isabella gave me the phone number for WOW.”
WOW, or Women’s Own Worth, was founded in 2012 by Jajuan Archer. Archer, once a victim of domestic violence, started the organization to bridge the gap between state- and government-funded organizations and victims. She realized the gap when she sought reimbursement for counseling services from the Crime Victims Reparation Fund.
“I didn’t realize I was being abused because it wasn’t physical—it was all verbal. It wasn’t until he’d held a gun to my head that I realized ‘this is abuse.’ It was like something on TV. But I knew I couldn’t be in a relationship with this man. I had an 11-year-old daughter. So I ended the relationship,” Archer said.
This, she believes, was what escalated the situation. “In his mind, I was his and I’d betrayed him. When he realized I was serious, it pushed him over the edge,” she said. “Looking back, I now know, I was in a stalking situation. When he tried to kidnap me, I went to the police.”
Archer narrowly escaped with her life. Her abuser threatened the life of a contractor who’d come to her home to do some repair work and forced her into her car. Miraculously, she escaped, shooting her abuser. Even as she ran away, he’d aimed a shotgun at her.
It was a harrowing experience, and eventually Archer sought counseling, which was not covered by her insurance. So, she submitted the expenses to the Crime Victims Reparation Fund, only to be turned down.
“I knew that if I couldn’t get reimbursed for therapy that there would be others in my same situation. So, my first goal was to help women address their mental health. God aligned me with people who step-by-step helped me make this desire a reality,” she said.
Archer is a cosmetologist, and one of her clients worked for the Friday Law Firm. An attorney there helped WOW gain nonprofit status. Things took off from there, and the organization held its first fundraiser in 2014 and raised $14,000. Last year, the annual event—WOWapalooza—raised $70,000, which helps domestic violence victims with expenses, such as counseling, transitional housing costs (including first-month rent and deposits), meals, dental care and more. Thus far, WOW has awarded two scholarships to help victims pursue their educational goals, and they’ve given away three cars.
The organization also assists individuals who have been victims of sex crimes and even some who were part of cults.
Archer said the organization has great community partners including Little Rock Family Dental, which has donated more than $70,000 of dental care including two full restorations.
WOW is also there to serve as an advocate, to help victims and their families through the legal process. This is what Archer did for Strickland.
“I was out of my mind,” she said. “WOW walked me through the reparation process, and Jajuan was at every court date. I could never thank her or WOW enough.” (Moss was sentenced to 40 years in prison.)
Archer is excited about what WOW has accomplished thus far. Currently, they are distributing a booklet “Domestic Violence: A Practical Guide for Navigating the Legal System in Arkansas” to salons throughout the state.
“Clients tell their hairstylists everything. We do more than cut and color hair; we’re their friends. I really feel that if stylists have this information to refer to, they can help their clients [escape a dangerous situation],” Archer said.
Next on WOW’s agenda: advocating for an amendment to Arkansas’s victim’s statement law that would require the accused to remain in court while the statement is read.
“Victims have a right to have their abusers know how their actions have affected them,” Archer said.
While this year’s WOWapoolza is sold out, there are other ways in which you can support WOW. Log on to their website womensownworth.com for more information.
*National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Signs of Domestic Abuse
Perhaps you’re concerned that someone you know is being abused.
Here are some signs to look for:
His/her partner puts them down in front of other people.
He/she is constantly worried about making their partner angry.
He/she makes excuses for their partner’s behavior.
His/her partner is extremely jealous or possessive.
He/she has unexplained marks or injuries.
He/she has stopped spending time with friends and family.
He/she is depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in his/her personality.
Remember, you cannot force a victim to leave an abusive situation (statistically, many women leave their partners seven times before finally leaving for good). Abuse is about power and control; he/she is fearful of his/her partner. The decision must be his/hers. Be supportive, but nonjudgmental, while encouraging him/her to get help.
Information from The National Domestic Violence Hotline, thehotline.org, 800-799-7233
Note: We include men, as it’s estimated 1 in 7 men are victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his lifetime.*