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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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Domestic violence survivors: 'Walk in My Shoes'

Domestic violence survivors: 'Walk in My Shoes'

Two weeks after Jaime Avery filed for a protective order – denied for lack of evidence – her abuser began threatening to kill her, she said.

One night, he broke into her home and held her and her then 15-year-old son at gunpoint. He pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed.

He is now in prison, and Avery is alive to tell her story, which she did Tuesday evening during a candlelight vigil at the Lafourche Central Market in Raceland. The Lafourche Parish sheriff's and district attorney's offices, PACT Place and The Haven hosted the vigil, titled "A Walk in My Shoes," in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Avery encouraged people to educate themselves and others on domestic violence and law enforcement officers to take such calls seriously, no matter how many times they've responded to a home. She said many women stay in abusive relationships because that seems to be the safest option, as leaving can escalate the problem.

"We had been dating since junior high and been each other's first of everything," she said. "We shared a great bond, we had kids, and I decided to keep my family together. I wasn't the sole provider, so I stayed for financial reasons to keep our home, shelter and stability for our little ones. I also remained in an abusive relationship because of fear. I felt trapped and couldn't leave because I wasn't sure of where or who to turn to for help."

Shoes were placed on a table in memory of domestic violence victims throughout the state, including in Lafourche.

Chelsi Eschette, 33, was shot and killed April 29 outside her Raceland home by her estranged husband, who then turned the gun on himself. Her father, Todd Pertuit, carried a pair of tennis shoes to the table in honor of her.

Pertuit said he and his wife, Stacy, have decided not to dwell on the tragedy but instead focus on celebrating Chelsi's life and raising her two sons, who also attended the vigil, the way she would have wanted. He encouraged other loved ones to do the same.

"In the blink of an eye, our lives were changed forever," he said. "We ask ourselves, 'What could we have done differently? What sign did we miss?' But we had to remind ourselves that the answers to those questions don't matter. All that matters now is what we do from this moment on. Yes, it was ugly, hateful, horrible, tragic, selfish, but we can't let our lives become the same."

Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle said he didn't grow up in a violent household but has heard horror stories from children whose parents were abusive to each other. Thus, he said, the cycle continues.

"The children who live in a domestic violence home believe that is the way they have to live, and it's not," he said. "We need to change it, and we need to change it soon. Too many things happen that will hurt somebody's life or take lives of innocent people."

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.