Jajuan Archer is a survivor.
She devotes countless hours to helping other victims of domestic violence move forward in their lives, just as she is still doing. Kidnapped twice in 2011 by an ex-boyfriend who had been verbally abusive during their relationship, Archer was forced to defend herself with a gun she had purchased after the first kidnapping, from which she was able to get away, … or be killed by a gun that he kept pointed at her head during the second kidnapping.
“He had a .30.06 and made me get in the car,” Archer said, tears clouding her eyes as she recalled the event as if it had just happened yesterday. “He said, ‘It ends today.’ His eyes were black, and his veins were popping out on his face. I prayed … ‘Please, Jesus, give me strength.’”
This second kidnapping happened in front of her house in Bryant, where her then-
11-year-old daughter was, along with two other children. Archer said as he drove away from the house, she was greatly concerned about the children and knew she had to get back to them.
As her kidnapper continued to drive, Archer said she was able to get to her purse and get her gun. She shot and killed the ex-boyfriend in what Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca I. Bush said was a justified shooting.
“The criminal investigation showed that several witnesses observed her being abducted at gunpoint,” Bush said. “She eventually shot her attacker in self-defense.”
With support from family and friends, and later, from mental-health professionals, Archer found a way to deal with the tragedy that changed her life, as well as those around her. She said she believes her life was spared so she could help other victims of domestic violence and violent crimes.
“I am paying it forward,” said Archer, who has lived in Bryant for 20 years. “I did what I had to do. … I’m still worthy of a good life. … Others are, too.”
Archer has told her story countless times since 2011 in her role as founder and president of Women’s Own Worth, a nonprofit she founded in 2012 to raise awareness and support victims of domestic violence and violent crimes. She may be called on again to tell her story Friday night at the fifth annual WOWapalooza fundraising event at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock.
Tickets to the event are $125 and may be purchased online at womensownworth.com. WOWapalooza, set for 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, will feature a sit-down dinner, silent and live auctions, and entertainment presented by violinist Oksana Pavilionis, founder and owner of Ovation Music Academy in Benton. The guest speaker will be Andrea Willis of Los Angeles.
“Andrea has carried a lifelong passion to advocate for victims who cannot speak for themselves,” Archer said. “After recently losing her aunt to domestic violence, Women’s Own Worth became a support for [Andrea’s] family. She now travels the globe, compelling others to join her in the fight for victims and their families.”
Archer said Jane Evans, associate professor of nursing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, will be recognized as the WOW 2018 Woman of the Year at Friday night’s event.
“Jane has brought in sponsorships for the past two years,” Archer said. “It’s her kind of passion that keeps us going. She has raised not only money, but also awareness about domestic violence at her school. She is one of the many volunteers that we depend on.”
Evans said she is “proud that every single day, WOW helps individuals and families recover their independence and lives.”
“A nurse’s goal is to assist patients on their journey to wellness,” Evans said. “We start with them wherever they are, caring for them in whatever ways necessary, always promoting strength and independence, until they are where they want to be. WOW does that, too, so it feels right to me.”
A wide variety of items will be up for bid in the auctions at WOWapalooza, including local artwork, photography packages, beauty products and gift cards to local businesses.
“We will have more than $65,000 worth of items in the auctions,” Archer said. “And Braswell & Son Pawnbrokers of Bryant has donated an original Louis Vuitton bag valued at $3,000 as a raffle item. Raffle tickets are $25 each or five for $100.
“We raised $77,000 at WOWapalooza last year. We are hoping to raise even more this year. This is our only fundraiser this year,” Archer said.
“We get no funding … no federal or state funding. All our funding comes from donations by friends, family and community,” she said.
“Proceeds from this year’s WOWapalooza will go toward the next phase of our program — building the first of 10 transition houses for survivors of domestic violence,” Archer said.
“We have received a donation of 2 acres of land on which we hope to build these transition homes,” she said.
“We actually received this land donation a couple of years ago. It has been on my heart since then. It just seemed that now is the time to do something with it,” Archer said.
“We are going to build the first transition house as soon as we can. This is not a shelter. Victims have to leave shelters — they can usually stay in one from two weeks at minimum, up to a month, maximum. This will be a real home — a beautiful home that anyone would want to live in,” she said.
“We need to raise $250,000 for this first home. That would be to build it and maintain it for one year,” she said.
“My sister, Tonia Griffin of Bryant, is a builder and has her own construction company, Cross Iron Construction. She is donating her services,” Archer said.
“My husband, Greg Archer, is a registered architect and director of architecture at Garver LLC, and he is drawing the plans, pro bono. My cause is his cause now, by choice. He has been with me every step of the way,” she said.
“We are hoping other local companies will help us make it happen. These women will make good neighbors; they will help the community grow. The more the community grows, the more it prospers,” Archer said.
“We will go by HUD guidelines when renting these houses. The occupants will pay 30 percent of their income,” she said. Residents of the transition house will be allowed to stay a maximum of two years.
“We are building these houses to give these victims — these survivors — a leg up … to let them know they are worthy of a really beautiful home that anyone would want to live in,” Archer said.
“It will happen. … I give God all the glory,” Archer said. “Everything God has put on my heart to do has happened.”
Another recent development in which Archer — a licensed cosmetologist and owner of Beyond Hair beauty salon in Little Rock — was involved is the passing of Act 488 by the Arkansas State Legislature in 2017. The legislation, drafted by state Rep. Charlene Fite (R-Van Buren), requires Arkansas cosmetology students to receive one hour of training in domestic-violence and sexual-assault awareness.
“I read about this law in Illinois and knew we had to do something similar here in Arkansas,” Archer said.
“This law will allow cosmetologists to recognize clients who may be in need of help,” she said, adding that there are approximately 3,000 salons in the state.
“I am in the process of getting a copy of the booklet “Domestic Violence: A Practical Guide for Navigating the Legal System in Arkansas” to each salon in Arkansas. The booklet is a self-help guide for survivors of domestic violence and was compiled by many people using many different sources. It is also available online and can be downloaded
for free at https://www.arkbar.com/arkbaryls/publications/new-item2,” Archer said.
“Meeting Jajuan Archer has been one of the greatest blessings in my life,” Fite said.
“Jajuan is a tireless advocate for those who have experienced intimate-partner violence. Jajuan was the first to bring to my attention the need for a law requiring cosmetology students to have training in recognizing the signs of abuse. She worked with me closely during each step of the process. She joined with me in meeting with the Department of Health and the Cosmetology Board, drafting the bill, speaking before committees and, finally, seeing the governor sign it into law,” Fite said.
“Jajuan is always thinking of ways to help those who have experienced tragedy,” Fite said. “She never stops. If you haven’t been to WOWapalooza, you’re missing out. It’s the best event of the year, and all money raised goes straight to making life better for those in need of services.
“I cannot say enough good things about Jajuan and the work she does. It’s truly an honor to be her friend.”
Archer said her “major purpose for founding WOW was to encourage women to seek mental-health help after experiencing a tragedy.”
“We are partnering with several mental-health clinics to provide these services,” she said. “While we cannot pay these professionals what they might normally charge, we have worked out a reduced cost for WOW clients. These professionals have really big hearts, but they are getting paid, too, based on fees similar to what insurance companies might pay them.
“This is one reason I talk about my own story … to show how important it is to seek mental-health help,” Archer said. “It can save a life. … These victims, these survivors need to get therapy, which will help empower them and help them know their own worth.”
Now 49, Archer continues to live in Bryant with her husband, Greg. They have a blended family — her daughter, Erica Legate, 18, is a graduate of Bryant High School and a freshman at Arkansas State University, and his sons, Ian Archer, 13, and Adam Archer, 11, attend Bryant Middle School.
For more information on Women’s Own Worth or WOWapalooza, call (501) 303-9978 or visit womensownworth.com. Information is also available on Facebook.