Courtney Brandabur told the hundreds of people gathered at the LSU Memorial Tower Sunday she wanted to tell her story about the abuse she experienced as a child so other domestic violence victims could learn to heal along with her.
Brandabur, a 19-year-old LSU student, said she grew up in hostile homes and was abused by more than one stepfather. Attacked physically and sexually, Brandabur said she finally escaped the violence when she was about 15 years old after “family relationships changed.”
However, the pain still lingers, she said.
“It had a very dramatic effect on me as far as developing my relationships with other people,” she said.
Brandabur and other survivors of domestic abuse shared their experiences during the 26th annual Take Back the Night rally denouncing violence against women.
“This is what this night is about — it’s about healing,” Brandabur said. “The only way to heal is really to sort of share your suffering.”
The event organized by the LSU Women’s Center, and held on LSU’s campus for the fifth year in a row.
The rally is designed to raise awareness about an issue that isn’t discussed much because of how sensitive it is, said Summer Steib, the LSU Women’s Center’s director.
“I think it’s very stigmatized still,” Steib said. “I think that a lot more conversations need to be had.”
Before the formal events began, participants took a chance to have a little fun.
The Drew Danzy Band played in front of the steps of the Memorial Tower. Food and drinks were consumed, T-shirts were decorated, and posters were drawn.
Then came the solemn ceremony.
Representatives from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office mentioned that their agencies offer services for anyone who has suffered from domestic violence.
“We all try to provide a safety net, and we’re all here for you any time you need us,” said Sgt. Carolyn Stapleton, director of the Sheriff’s Office Crime Victims’ Assistance Division.
After a poetry reading, Brandabur and other survivors stood in front of the crowd and told their tales.
Jacqueline Floyd, 50, recalled how she was abused more than 25 years ago. In 2010, cold case detectives approached her about her case.
In 2011, her attacker was finally put behind bars.
“I’m not a victim anymore,” Floyd said during her speech. “I’m a survivor.”
Candles of different colors were lit in honor of the different types of domestic abuse. Purple for battered women and children, red for sexual violence survivors, and so on.
Names were read of all the people in East Baton Rouge Parish killed by domestic violence within the last year. As the names were announced, pictures of silhouettes were raised in their honor.
Then came the biggest production of the night — the march.
The crowd lined up on Tower Drive and began walking through campus before turning and walking through nearby neighborhoods. LSU Police guided them along their path.
The marchers held signs with messages such as “2, 4, 6, 8, stop the violence, stop the hate.” Over and over, they shouted, “People unite, take back the night.”
Kathy Saichuk, the event’s chairwoman and health promotion coordinator at the LSU Student Health Center, said bringing so many people together and hearing the stories of abuse helps people realize the impact it has on a community.
Saichuk said people across all backgrounds are victims of abuse.
“Age doesn’t discriminate. Socioeconomic status doesn’t discriminate,” she said.