Louisiana’s domestic violence problem is one of the worst in the country, Sandria Beauty said to a gathering Tuesday night at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse.

The Violence Policy Center ranked Louisiana as second in the nation for female deaths at the hands of males, The Haven board president said.

“Every nine seconds a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other,” Beauty said.

The vigil was part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month sponsored by The Haven, a resource and shelter for women and children who have been abused.

Residents solemnly gathered at the courthouse steps holding candles to honor victims of domestic abuse. After the names of the victims were read, there was a moment of silence followed by the playing of Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You.”

In Terrebonne Parish alone, there were 551 reported cases of domestic violence in 2018, organizers said. There were 75 reported cases of protection order violations and 16 reported cases of cyberstalking and stalking.

Nearly 20 people per minute suffer physical abuse by an intimate partner in the United States, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. That adds up to over 10 million people in a year.

About one in four women and one and seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, the coalition said.

About 21 percent of all emergency room visits stem from women suffering from some form of domestic violence, organizers said.

However, as one survivor pointed out, not all abuse is physical.

“He didn’t beat me with his fist, but called me names and would tell me no one cared about me,” the victim tearfully said. “He would tell me that a .22 bullet is cheaper than a divorce. But I didn’t think it was abuse because he didn’t hit me. He forced me to do shameful things but I didn’t think it was rape because he was my husband. I became good at keeping secrets and wore a smile like a mask. I became an Oscar award-worthy actress. I was held prisoner by invisible chains and burdened by shame and guilt.”

The importance of the vigil is to bring awareness and take a stand against domestic violence, Beauty said.

“Candlelight vigils like these are held across the country are a crucial part of unmasking domestic violence and implementing the necessary changes to prevent domestic violence from happening and helping those who have been victimized,” she said.

Another candlelight vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Lafourche Central Market, 4484 La. 1, in Raceland.