BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Statistics show Louisiana ranks second in the nation for homicides related to domestic abuse. "There were 14 domestic violence and dating violence-related homicides, representing 19 percent of the overall homicides in our parish," said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore.
Moore hosted a news conference Thursday to break down those numbers for the Baton Rouge area. Moore presented his second annual report regarding domestic violence incidents in 2017. Moore said 2017 started and ended with domestic violence homicides, 12 of those offenders were men and two were women.
The first incident was January 1, 2017 and the last was December 31. Moore said these cases were entirely preventable. "There are usually key warning signs of abusers who are likely to kill in the future."
In 2016, 12 people fell victim to domestic violence in EBR Parish, then two more were added last year.
This year, the DA's office is focused on better identifying high-risk offenders and initiating direct communication to possibly deter future incidents by partnering with the National Network for Safe Communities. They're also focused on their Hospital Violence Intervention Program and stopping witness intimidation. Moore said the DA's office has partnered with Aequitas, Justice Management Institute (JMI), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and a group called Combating Witness Intimidation (CWI).
Director of Human Services with the DA's office, Kristen Raby, said victim intimidation methods can vary. "Between social media, text messages, following a victim to school, or intimidate with children. We see that a lot. People don't want to reach out because they're afraid of their children were being taken away or they're afraid of not having that support," Raby said.
"Between 12 and 20 victims a week come in and say, 'I want to drop the charge, I want to dismiss the charge,'" said Moore.
Raby said oftentimes, the difference between a victim reporting an incident and staying quiet could begin with having a positive conversation and not being re-traumatized. Now that the Hospital Violence Intervention Program is in full swing, a victim assistance coordinator is stationed at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital to immediately make contact with a victim, if they want, potentially decreasing the 3,000-domestic violence related cases handled annually by the DA's office.
Last year, Moore said 57 victims received counseling. "Our office spent approximately $17, 000 in costs associated with assisting victims that needed to be immediately relocated for safety reasons," he said.
The DA's office is quick to remind the public that domestic violence isn't something you're born with, it's taught. Moore said many times, children are exposed to violence. "Most children report to us that they yell and try to stop the violence, some try to get away, some hide, some call for help to intervene, and unfortunately become a victim themselves," Moore explained.
Domestic violence advocates say the first step in preventing violence is recognizing it and that begins when outsiders step in, hopefully encouraging victims to get the courage to step up. Moore said if everyone does their part, the murder rate can be reduced.
Moore also said he has plans to enlist the help of legislators to sponsor a bill requiring salon specialists and nail technicians to take a domestic violence and dating violence awareness course.
Perhaps one of the most notable cases from last year was the story of Angela Gabriel. She was shot nine times in her bathtub, but she survived.
However, that's not the case for all domestic violence victims across our area.
The full Domestic Violence Report for 2017 can be found here.