OPELOUSAS – Dozens of marchers, of different race, age and gender, converged on the St. Landry Parish Courthouse Tuesday night as part of the seventh annual “Take Back the Night” march, calling for an end to domestic violence and sexual assault.
This year’s theme was “Justice for Victims, Justice for All”, and never was the need more apparent than when domestic violence survivor Jenny Hudson told her story to the assembled crowd.
Hudson was attacked by her ex-husband, dragged out of bed, and thrown onto the floor.
“He ran a knife along my throat and told me he was going to cut my vocal cords out - I have a hole in my throat to this day,” Hudson said, adding that her ex-husband’s teeth marks are still embedded in her flesh.
“The outward scars are bad,” Hudson said, “But the inner scars to the heart, and to the mind, will always keep me on guard.”
“Be careful,” Hudson urged the young people in the audience, “No one has a right to lay a hand on you.”
St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor said that it is important to raise awareness of domestic violence due to its prevalence in the area.
“A young man came to me, and he was charged with hitting his wife. He said to me, ‘You mean it’s against the law to hit your wife?’” Taylor recalled.
Taylor estimated that 10 to 20 percent of cases brought before his office deal with domestic violence, but that more are not reported.
“Perhaps it’s the way some people were raised, where they think that family violence is acceptable. This is just our chance to say it is not,” he added.
“Every nine seconds in this country a woman gets battered,” Faith House Outreach Advocate Angelle Bellard said.
“Hopefully, through this march, we can help spread the word about domestic violence and let victims know that they’re not alone, that there is help.”
St. Landry-Evangeline Sexual Assault Center Director Laura Balthazar said she hopes the rally will help raise awareness of sexual assault issues as well.
“So many times, women do not know where they can go when they’re being victimized, and this is the perfect opportunity tonight to show them that help does exist,” Balthazar said.