The Women's Shelter of Central Arkansas raised approximately $6,000 on Thursday during the Risen From Silence fundraiser banquet.
The event featured a silent auction to help raise funds to cover the day-to-day costs of running the shelter along with other supplies needed at the shelter. A local domestic violence survivor also shared her story during the event, which was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
The event celebrates survivors of domestic violence and aims to inspire the community to support those survivors.
"This cause is very close to my heart and it has touched each board member in one way or another," Megan Greenland, who is president of the women's shelter board, said Thursday night. "We're all here for a very important reason. We're all here because we believe in safety and security for all Faulkner County residents."
Last year, the Women's Shelter of Central Arkansas housed 119 residents.
Carrie Curtis, the shelter's executive director, said that while domestic violence cannot be put to an end at this time, the shelter is working to help those who have broken free from its grasp.
"What we can do is support people who are coming out of [the abuse]," she said. "We can provide a safe place for them so they don't have to stay [in harm's way] any longer. We can help repair what's been torn down in the months or years or decades that they've been living in it."
Conway resident Brandi Smith was the featured speaker at the Risen From Silence fundraiser Thursday. Smith is a survivor who encourages others to let their wounds help them become warriors.
On Sept. 3, 2016, Smith was severely beaten and almost murdered by her now ex-husband.
The two were visiting her family in Memphis, Tennessee to celebrate her daughter's 21st birthday when her then-husband drug her from his car as he left the party before severely beating Smith on the side of the road after he crashed his car.
A teary-eyed audience listened intently as Smith detailed the graphic events leading up to her survival story.
Smith told the group her husband began beating and abusing her about four months before this near-death experience.
"In a nutshell, I knew this man was going to kill me. There was no doubt in my mind that this man wasn't going to kill me. He was going to kill me or he was going to kill my kids," she said of the way her ex-husband began treating her, noting he also threatened to go after her children if she ever reported his abuse. "It was getting so bad. I knew I had to do something."
Recalling the day she was almost murdered, Smith said her husband drug her from her children's father's home in Tennessee before eventually pulling her back into the vehicle and crashing into a tree. The crash site was near a neighborhood, she said. However, no one was around to help as her ex-husband got out of the vehicle after crashing the car.
Despite everything that had happened to her leading up to this moment, Smith said she refused to give up until her ex-husband pulled her out of the vehicle and began smashing her head on the concrete.
"I just remember thinking, 'where is everybody' and being so scared. Then, he bangs my head on the concrete ... and that was the only time I gave up, because that first bang was so bad," she said through tears. "It hurt so bad. I said I couldn't do it anymore. And with the second bang, my kids flashed before my head. I remember thinking they can't live without me."
Fighting for her kids is what helped Smith hold on long enough for medical aid, she said, noting that as she rode in the back of the ambulance she told one of the paramedics there's no way she would make it to the hospital, which was 20 minutes away. Once she learned her daughter was riding along in the front of the ambulance, Smith said she fought harder to hold on. Since her near-death experience, Smith now advocates to other domestic survivors not to hide behind the pain in their past but instead let their wounds guild them to become warriors.
Smith said having a local women's shelter is encouraging. She also said the atmosphere inside the Women's Shelter of Central Arkansas is calm, welcoming and inviting.
"The women's shelter is doing what it's supposed to do. It's making victims feel safe, happy, and loved," she said. "And all that is happening because of the people that work there and because of people like you who are donating to the shelter."
The Women's Shelter of Central Arkansas offers a number of services to local victims including:
Support groups for domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault victims.
An emergency shelter.
Prescription assistance along with food and clothing.
Crisis counseling and mental health services referrals.
Public education presentations on domestic abuse, sexual assault and healthy relationships.
Barbara Jackson, board chairman, said anyone who wishes to donate or for more information on the shelter can visit the shelter's website at www.conwaywomensshelter.com.