Twahna Harris’ message was clear to those gathered Monday night at the Women Working with Women’s “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” forum — it takes community support to help victims of domestic abuse escape their relationships.
Harris said she was a student at Southern University in 1990 when she was in an abusive relationship with a man who kept her from her friends and beat her so badly that she had bruises on her face. Eventually, she flunked out of school.
After “months of planning,” which included help from a domestic abuse hotline, Harris said, she was finally able to pack up her things and leave.
Harris told her story to about 20 people as part of the forum hosted at BREC’s Independence Park by Women Working with Women, a local organization dedicated to raising awareness about domestic abuse.
Harris, who is vice president of Women Working with Women, said it is easier said than done for a person to escape abuse. She said her boyfriend had control over her because she did not have a car and he drove her around everywhere.
“I ask each and every one of you, if there is someone that you know right now in that situation, talk to them, be there for them,” Harris said.
Angela Pursley, president of Women Working with Women, said the primary goal of the discussion was to point victims of abuse in the direction of resources that can help them and educate the public about how bad a problem domestic abuse is.
“You just don’t know the need until you get involved,” Pursley said.
East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court Judge Charlene Charlet Day told the crowd she is seeing an increasing number of protective orders being filed in court.
Day spent much of the session discussing how victims of domestic abuse can file petitions for protective orders.
Day said anyone who files for a protective order must be as clear and as specific as possible when writing down past incidents because judges need enough concrete details to consider approving the petition.
Day said protective orders aren’t always enough. Sometimes, she said, police have to be called and criminal charges must be filed.
“I’m sure you’ve heard lots of people say, ‘This won’t stop a bullet.’ And it won’t,” Day said. “But with diligence and with people reporting violations of these orders, perhaps police presence and this (protective order) can stop further harm.”
Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle also related her experience as a victim of domestic abuse.
Marcelle said she loved her husband but he battled alcoholism, which led to him coming home late and arguing with her.
One night, around Christmas 2004, her husband, in a drunken stupor, became irate and stabbed her multiple times, even piercing her heart, Marcelle said, adding that she was not expected to survive.
After her husband served five years in prison, Marcelle said she accepted him back into her life under one condition — that he stop drinking. But after a relapse, she said she told him goodbye.
Marcelle said she told her story so people realize that anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse.
“They’re not from a certain group or they don’t make a certain amount of money,” Marcelle said. “It doesn’t really matter what you look like or where you’ve been.”