The Butterfly Society, a nonprofit for victims and survivors of domestic violence, partnered with the city of Zachary in dedicating a purple butterfly garden on Monday at Zachary Youth Park in Bronco Circle.
Twahna P. Harris, executive director of the Butterfly Society and a survivor of domestic violence, formed the organization in 2015. She was joined at the dedication by Mayor David Amrhein and East Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Trae Welch, who, along with City Court Judge Lonny Myles, launched a domestic abuse offenders program in 2009 to help reduce the number of domestic assault and battery cases in Zachary. Welch also is Zachary’s city prosecutor.
“It speaks volumes that Mayor Amrhein and Councilman Welch are taking a stand by agreeing to have this garden planted in the city. It says domestic abuse is not allowed on our watch,” Harris said at the ceremony. “My hope is that this garden will start conversations at homes among families, at churches and at the corner store about the fact that domestic violence is real and is happening in our community.”
Louisiana is ranked fourth in the nation in domestic violence cases and has ranked at the top nationally the past 20 years, Harris said.
However, with help from local criminal and civil justice agencies and the offenders program in Zachary, the numbers locally are declining, she said.
According to Karen Marchand, a social worker who oversees the domestic violence program in Baton Rouge and Zachary, the recidivism rate for those who have gone through the program is low.
“The number of cases has also declined,” Marchand added.
Since 2011, there have been 211 cases involving domestic abuse in Zachary, court officials said.
The 26-week program is patterned after the Duluth Model or Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, which was developed in Duluth, Minnesota, to reduce domestic violence against women and is based on the philosophy that violence is intentional.
Those who admit guilt or are found guilty are sent to Marchand, who determines the appropriate treatment.
“Each case is different; it’s not a one-size-fits-all program,” added Welch. “But I can tell you that if offenders do not participate or do not successfully complete the program, they will face jail time.”
He said the main goal is to stop the violence now, before it becomes cyclical and repeated by children in the home.
Lee Carpenter, the city’s gardener, said she planted a number of purple flowering plants, including verbena, lavender, salvia, pentas and Mexican heather in keeping with the national color for domestic violence — purple — which symbolizes peace, courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending violence.
“Our goal is to stop domestic violence, advocate for legislation, continue to raise awareness and offer resources such as housing, clothing and job placement,” Harris said about the Butterfly Society.
The organization has 10 core volunteers and a seven-member board, including Sheila Lewis, of Baton Rouge, who was an assistant principal at Zachary Elementary School in the 1980s.
The garden will serve as a tribute to domestic abuse victims and as a place to be inspired as well as to inspire others, Amrhein said.
“Nobody, male or female, should have to live with or tolerate domestic violence,” he said. “By having this garden here, we want people to know that Zachary is a city that wants to get along with everyone.”
For information about the Butterfly Society, call (225) 347-7725 or email email@example.com.