Rachel O’Pry shouted over and over again into a megaphone Sunday night, asking the people marching behind her to take back the night from domestic violence.
O’Pry, 23, a graduate student at LSU’s School of Social Work, led the annual march protesting partner abuse.
“People unite, take back the night!” she shouted, as others joined her in unison.
The march highlighted a nearly two-hour rally, “Take Back the Night,” near the LSU Memorial Bell Tower.
The rally, hosted by the Capital Area Family Violence Intervention Center, seeks to bring awareness to those harmed or killed by intimate partners.
“This is just one event, but it is tied to so many other events,” said Martha Forbes, executive director of the intervention center.
Forbes said a similar event is being planned Monday in Ascension Parish.
LSU’s event celebrated its 25th anniversary Sunday, but only its fourth time in front of the Memorial Bell Tower.
The rally was moved to LSU to catch more people’s attention, particularly the college crowd, according to Kathy Saichuk, the event’s chairwoman and health promotion coordinator at the LSU Student Health Center.
“Every year here, it seems to get bigger,” she said of the several hundred people who showed up for the protest.
The marchers, donning maroon shirts with “Take Back the Night” across the back, were not dismayed by the steady rain that fell Sunday.
They began at the Bell Tower, walked down Tower Drive toward the LSU School of Music and into a nearby neighborhood.
LSU and city police provided an escort.
Scattered groups of people peeked their heads outside of their homes or dormitories as the protest passed by.
The marchers never stopped chanting.
“We won’t be raped, we won’t be beat, not in our house, not in our street,” they yelled as they walked.
Dozens of marchers held signs with messages against violence.
They read, “Who runs the world? Girls!” and “Stop dating violence.”
Before the march started, the crowd gathered at the Bell Tower steps to honor the victims of domestic abuse and violence.
Several victims told their stories.
Megan Carlson, 38, told the crowd she was raped by a man in 2009.
The man was put in prison two years later, she said, but he eventually walked away.
“But I know that one day, he will get what’s coming to him,” she told the crowd as she started to cry.
When she finished speaking, Carlson ran into the arms of a friend.
Carlson said she decided to talk at Sunday‘s rally to let victims know that it’s all right for them to open up about their experiences.
“I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone,” she said of how she felt shortly after she was raped.
After the survivors told their stories, a group involved with the intervention center read the names of the 60 victims of domestic violence who died in Louisiana in the past 12 months.
As the names were spoken, people in the crowd raised signs portraying a silhouette with the name of the victim written on the back.
Several people took turns reading the names, including Mayor-President Kip Holden and District Attorney Hillar Moore III.
“Let’s give a big round of applause to those out there who are fighting this battle every day,” Holden told the crowd.
Moore said before the ceremony started that he meets victims of domestic violence in his office every day.
He said his office has expanded services in the Baton Rouge Rape Crisis Center.
“We’re committed to attempting to break the cycle of domestic violence,” Moore said.
Forbes said the intervention center serves about 3,500 women a year, but that’s only 8 percent to 10 percent of all domestic violence victims in Baton Rouge.
She said one in four women will be abused in their lifetimes.
“That’s not an acceptable statistic,” she said.
Events such as Sunday’s “Take Back the Night” rally help bring awareness to a little-known issue in the parish, Forbes said.
“Everybody in East Baton Rouge Parish needs to be here,” she said.