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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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Vigil honors domestic violence victims

Vigil honors domestic violence victims

Louisiana has the second-highest rate in the U.S. of women killed by men, but those who attended a vigil Tuesday night want to change that.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, The Haven, the Lafourche District Attorney’s Office and P.A.C.T. Place Supervised Visitation and Monitored Exchange Center hosted a candlelight vigil in Raceland Tuesday night.

The annual vigil honors those who have experienced domestic violence and seeks to provide hope to those who are still suffering from it.

Unlike other crimes, domestic violence can spread like a virus, Lafourche Sheriff Craig Webre said.

“Domestic violence is one of the most insidious criminal acts that a person can commit,” Webre said. “It sets in motion a generation of future abusers. If I steal your car, you don’t go out next week or 10 years from now and steal your neighbor’s car. But a child who grows up in a household with abuse or violence is statically at much greater risk of growing up to commit this horrible crime.”

Lafourche Parish sheriff’s deputies answered 1,488 calls related to domestic violence last year, despite it being one of the most underreported crimes.

There were also 665 protective orders issued for victims last year in Lafourche, the Sheriff’s Office said.

To combat this onslaught of abuse, the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office aided in the creation of a state law prohibiting people convicted of domestic abuse battery and those with qualifying protective orders from possessing firearms.

Since passage of the law, there have been no homicides committed in the parish by those prohibited from having a firearm, the sheriff said.

District Attorney Kristine Russell said her team of prosecutors is also taking proactive approaches to combat domestic abuse. This year alone the DA’s office has handled 239 domestic violence cases, Russell said.

“In our office each and every one of our domestic violence cases has two goals: seeking justice and striving to support our victims,” Russell said. “That’s 239 wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, children and partners whose world was shattered by abuse.”

According to the Violence Policy Center, Louisiana is ranked second in the nation for homicides among women killed by male offenders in incidents that included one victim and one offender in 2016. Nearly one in four women age 18 and older have been the victim of physical violence by an intimate partner, and domestic violence remains the leading cause of injury to women.

The vigil’s guest speaker, WWL-TV news anchor Kristin Pierce, who also suffered at the hands of domestic abuse, told attendees that as a reporter she covers many stories about deaths or severe beatings resulting from domestic violence. However, she said, many people don’t hear much about how those tragedies build up.

“You don’t hear about pushes or slaps,” Pierce said. “You hear about deaths and murders. For me, I wasn’t even sure my first red flag was even abuse. He pushed me so hard that I slammed up against a wall and couldn’t move. I think I knew at the time that it wasn’t right. It just got worse and worse.”

As candles were lit, organizers read the names of those who lost their lives to domestic violence.

Pierce encouraged those who are suffering from abuse to seek help.

“For the people who experience this or know people who have experienced this, you really start to realize you’re not alone,” she said.

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.