When the father of Carin Carlson’s then 1-year-old daughter, Megan, threatened to toss the baby off a balcony, the young mother decided it was time for a change.
“That night I left with scars on my face, a broken clavicle. I’ve never looked back,” said Carin Carlson, now 64, choking back tears.
She then hugged Megan Carlson, now 40, inciting a roar of applause from a crowd of more than 100 people gathered Sunday evening at LSU’s Memorial Tower for the 27th annual Take Back The Night, an event to raise awareness for domestic and sexual assault victims.
The Carlsons had more of their story to share.
“Several years ago, my daughter was also a victim of violence,” Carin Carlson said, looking at her daughter. “She is one of the strongest women I know, and I love her.”
The crowd cheered again, and Megan Carlson, standing next to her mother and fiance, Allan Dunaway, recounted the time several years ago when she was raped by a man she considered to be a friend — a man she said she had “graciously” allowed to stay on her couch one night.
The Carlsons’ personal tales followed a series of speeches by Baton Rouge leaders, LSU administrators and sexual abuse awareness advocates who encouraged victims to share their stories.
“It’s never too late to do what’s right,” said Kenneth Miles, interim vice provost for LSU’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Community Outreach, echoing a quote by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Two other people also shared firsthand stories of abuse, including a 48-year-old woman, who said a man once beat her until she couldn’t see, and a young man, who said he was raped by another man.
“He infected me with HIV,” said Chip Gaudet, 20, who encouraged attendees to refrain from judging other people who are HIV-positive.
“Please don’t assume that they slept around,” Gaudet said. “Please don’t assume that they deserve it.”
Event organizers and volunteers also read aloud the names of people who have died in the last year in the Baton Rouge area as a result of domestic violence.
At least five victims of domestic violence have died since September 2012, according to the IRIS Domestic Violence Center of Baton Rouge, while several other people died in unsolved cases where domestic violence is suspected.
“One is way too many,” said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III, adding that this year’s numbers are about half a dozen lower than last year’s death count.
Candles were also lit to recognize sexual assault survivors, missing persons, victims of crimes that are never reported and women incarcerated for defending themselves during domestic disturbances.
Summer Steib, director of the LSU Women’s Center, along with leaders from many other sexual assault awareness organizations, then led a one-mile march from the Memorial Tower to the Carl Maddox Field House and back.
The crowd marched along the street in the dwindling daylight, chanting in the name of Take Back The Night.