Louisiana ranks fourth in domestic homicide rates

The shocking footage of former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice has brought domestic violence into the spotlight.

"We've seen tremendous increase in individuals reaching out for services," said Charmaine Cacciopi with United Way. "Individuals who say I feel like I now need to talk about this."

But local advocates will tell you it's a issue they've been fighting for years. In fact a new Violence Police Center study shows Louisiana has one of the highest domestic homicide rates in the country, ranking fourth - just behind Alaska, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

"Louisiana has ranked in the top 10 for the last 20 years," said Mary Claire Landry with the New Orleans Family Justice Center. "We have been very aggressive to address that and we are determine to get that number down."

Landry says a big move came in this past legislative session. Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law six bills strengthening the state's laws against domestic violence. Representative Helena Moreno introduced them.

"A lot of it is just getting it ingrained in people's mind that's not on," said Moreno.  "I think we really started doing it in this past legislative session."

A few of those laws include making it harder for certain offenders to be on parole, establishing repeat domestic abuse charges as felonies, and prohibiting offenders from possessing firearms.

"These are very volatile situations and we know if there is a gun in the home when these situations escalate, murders will happen," said Landry.

Advocates said it's a major stepping stone.

"I think we all should be very proud that we have been able to achieve this milestone, but by no means should we rest comfortably because we have to rest comfortably because we have an awfully lot to do," said Cacciopi.

A domestic violence prevention commission was also approved.

"We'll begin meeting next week - they're taking a look at a variety of issues to treatment for offenders, support for victims, to taking a look at the recent laws we passed to see if anything needs to be tweaked," said Moreno.

Another focus for the commission will be  finding money to help victims. Advocates hope these recent changes will help reduce domestic homicides in the state.

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