Take Back the Night supports domestic violence abuse victims

Darian Graivshark

In 2014, there were 559 cases of domestic violence reported in Ascension.

Domestic violence has become more noticeable in our parish. Although cases have been rising, the sheriff's awareness of them allows others to be held accountable, as well as allowing them to help assist survivors.

The annual Take Back the Night event was held on October 22 at Jambalaya Park in Gonzales. Donaldsonville High's ROTC opened the event with the Presentation of Colors.

"Everyone has a right to go home, and live at home, without any threats of violence. Although cases have increased, we've seen a decrease in cases for 2018. If we stay on track, we expect to see a ten percent decrease in domestic violence cases this year," Joey Meyers, the Lieutenant for the Domestic Violence Unit with Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, said.

"If we want Ascension to be the place to be, we need to make sure everyone is safe at home at the end of the day," Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa, said.

The decision to focus on domestic violence cases more heavily began after the death of Monica Johnson a few years back. Johnson was beaten to death with a bat by her husband although she had a restraining order against him.

"When victims come to us, we hold their hand and make sure they are lead to safety," Jeff Wiley, Ascension Parish Sheriff, said.

Mayor of Gonzales, Barney Arceneaux, emphasized that women should not have to worry about walking alone at night, or even worry about going home at the end of the day. Arceneaux hopes women become less afraid to call their local law enforcement officials and hopes they can eventually share their stories.

Mike Lambert, Mayor of Sorrento, has dealt with six cases himself, and said, "I still think about those cases and how I've dealt with the murders and suicides related to the violence."

In many cases, the women who cannot escape the violence do not have the resources to, like income of their own that will provide for both themselves and their children. Wiley encourages women to focus on their education and their careers. This way, if a husband becomes someone who is violent, they are able to escape without worry of things like money, among other things.

East Ascension High School Interact Club provided guests with sticks to hold, which represented domestic violence survivors. Students called out the name, and someone in the audience held up the stick with the corresponding name. This was followed by a moment of silence.

"It's one thing to look at a picture, but it's another to see these victims in front of you with not real hope. It's heartbreaking and takes a little bit of our souls every day," John Price, the Executive Director of IRIS Domestic Violence Center in Baton Rouge, said.

IRIS has been helping victims for the last 37 years, and has a 24/7 crisis hotline. The local hotline is 225-389-3001, and the statewide toll free hotline is 1-800-541-9706.

"We must keep in mind that the fight goes on. Domestic violence is a community health issue, and we must all come together to help with ending these cases," Price said.

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