LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The voices of victims could be heard Thursday night at the Lake Charles seawall as victims of sexual assault shared their experiences.
“I got to my apartment complex, and I opened the car door. I went to reach over to the passenger seat to get my purse, and that’s the moment when I felt a gun placed to the side of my head,” says Jessica. “That feeling of it next to my head was terrifying, and I didn’t know what he would do with it.”
A harrowing journey for one victim of sexual assault. She was one of the survivors speaking out, while local advocates explain their goals of ending sexual assault.
“They [detectives] are responding to a lot more cases at the hospital than they were this time last year. Of course with the COVID-19, they shut things down a little bit so our advocates weren’t able to respond as well,” says Kathy Williams, director of the Oasis Shelter for Women. “Things have picked up around here.”
Cases aren’t just on the rise in Southwest Louisiana. RAINN statistics estimate every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault - I think they are both on the uptick,” says Williams.
RAINN polling also finds only five out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.
“He wasn’t [convicted],” says Jessica. “Unfortunately, he knew what he was doing, so he got away with it. So, he is just walking free right now.”
That is something Jessica fears.
“I have to be on my lookout,” she says. “I have to always look behind my back. I have to look where I go no matter what I do. I always have to carry safety with me, because you never know if he’s just going to show up again and try to get revenge. It’s scary, but I don’t care. He doesn’t want me to tell my story. I don’t care.”
For victims like her though, she says overcoming fear is the biggest challenge. It’s something she has learned to conquer for the sake of helping other survivors.
“I knew that this was going to change someone else’s life,” she says. “This was going to help someone that feels alone in their situation, that feels like no one is listening.”
If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault and need help or just someone to speak with, the Oasis Women’s Shelter has a 24/7 hotline. An advocate can be reached by calling 337-436-4552.