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Vigil honors domestic violence victims
The Courier - 10/9/2019
Oct. 9--A sea of purple gathered today at Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever for a vigil honoring victims of domestic violence.
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Fletcher chapter of Women Honoring and Empowering Women co-hosted the vigil with the Student Government Association.
Students, faculty and members of the community donning purple shirts -- the color associated with ending domestic violence -- gathered at the student commons area and held up signs bearing the names of domestic violence victims throughout the state.
Angie Pellegrin, dean of Student Services, said the vigil not only honors domestic violence victims but also sends an important message.
"We know this involves some of our students and their daily lives," Pellegrin said. "We want them to know we're here for them and there is advocacy available. We have a strong partnership with The Haven. We want to end domestic violence. We want our students to know if they are in any trouble they don't have to be silent about it."
Representatives from The Haven, a resource and shelter for women and children who have been abused, were also on hand to provide information about their program.
Lafourche Parish sheriff's Lt. Valerie Martinez, supervisor of the department's social services division, has witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of domestic violence.
Her pregnant 25-year-old niece was stabbed to death by her boyfriend in 2015.
"He stabbed her so many times that the coroner could not even tell us how many times she was stabbed," Martinez said. "Then he proceeded to take the knife and slice her throat almost to the point of decapitation. We buried her on what would have been her due date."
Martinez, who served as the keynote speaker during the vigil, said domestic violence should be treated like an epidemic.
"Everybody's talking about opioids or drug addiction, but what we're failing to do is recognizing how important domestic violence is and how we respond to it as a community," Martinez told the crowd. "Each and every single one of you has a responsibility including myself as a law enforcement agency to handle domestic violence with the absolute seriousness and sincerity that it is."
Nearly 20 people per minute suffer physical abuse by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. That adds up to over 10 million people in a year.
About one in four women and one and seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, the coalition said.
Combating domestic violence requires support from both men and women, Martinez said.
"We need strong men out there to send a message that domestic violence is a crime and will not be tolerated," she said. "As a man you stand next to women and say domestic violence is not OK."
Fletcher student Victor Steele was one of several men who attended the vigil.
"I thought it was great," he said. "I'm glad they recognized everyone in Louisiana who died in the past year. It probably helped out a lot of us with our feelings and coping with grief that's been going on for a long time. I'm glad Fletcher is doing things like this."
--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.
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