Vigil highlights new laws against domestic violence
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Law enforcement has new ways to try to stop domestic violence. And a local sorority wants everyone to know about them, so they could save a woman's life.
The Nu Gamma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority hosted a vigil at the State Capitol on Thursday. It was both a remembrance of a lost sister and a celebration of seven laws that took effect at the start of the month.
"The laws address the issue of protection of the family, and protection of the victims, which in the past, they just not have had," said Jacqueline Nash, who organized the event.
"Our record on domestic homicides is abysmal," added Beth Meeks, Executive Director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "We frequently have a homicide rate two or three times higher than the national average. In every measure of homicide indicators, we are worse than everybody else."
The women of Alpha Kappa Alpha know that. "On January 15, which is the day of the founding of our sorority, our sister and member Aleria Cyrus Reed was killed by her estranged husband in the presence of her children," Nash explained. "As a result of that, it became a very personal issue."
District Attorney Hillar Moore III told the crowd he used one of the new laws for the first time Thursday, holding a defendant in a domestic violence case in custody for five days before a special hearing, "to make sure that the judge and everyone knows what's happening," Moore said. "How can we best secure this victim so that this defendant does not get out, cause harm again?"
Another new law makes it illegal for domestic abusers to possess guns.
"With the strongest gun rights legislation in the nation, those legislators in that building said, 'our mamas matter more than our guns today." Meeks stated. "People around this nation could not believe that, of every state, Louisiana was the one that drew the line in the sand and said we're going to stop violent offenders from having these guns. Almost no state has been able to move legislation like this, and if you had asked people in January, they would have told you Louisiana will be the last one to do it."
The laws are designed to protect victims and make it harder for abusers to hurt again. But the message of the rally was the education will be the key to ending domestic violence.
"We have to ensure that our deputies receive proper training to understand the dynamics of domestic violence, the evolving laws, as well as unique needs of the victim," East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said.
State Representative Alfred Williams (D-Baton Rouge), who was one of the co-authors of some of the legislation, spoke to the men of the community: "we need to stop tearing [women] down with verbal abuse. We need to stop tearing them down with physical violence. Lift them up, hold them up, cherish them."
Nash said this was the first in a series of events the sorority plans to host about domestic violence. More of them will be in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month nationwide.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, contact the Iris Center at (225) 389-3001.