Caddo Parish District Attorney James E. Stewart Sr. kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week events Monday, April 11, with remarks at the U.S. District Court House in downtown Shreveport.
Quoting the Apostle Luke, Stewart related the story of the Good Samaritan and stressed that his office, like others in law enforcement, exists to serve the public and serve people who, like the victim in the Bible example, have been “bleeding on the side of the road.”

He noted a 33-percent increase in staffing of his office’s Victim Assistance Program.

The theme of this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is “Serving Victims … Building Trust … Restoring Hope.”

“On a day-to-day basis they work to ¬†build trust and to build back the lives of people who are affected by crime,” he said, “dealing with their needs, dealing with them in court and helping them through the legal process.” He also noted the creation of a Special Victims Unit “that deals primarily with victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and other predatory crimes. Oftentimes after an arrest or prosecution there’s a gap and victims sometimes feel lost. We’re working with law enforcement to fill that gap so people understand there’s always someone who cares.”

He also noted the recent establishment of a Family Justice Center in Bossier, serving six parishes in Northwest Louisiana and maximizing the impact of funding at a time when funding for such programs is threatened.

“We’re all one, though we wear different uniforms and work in different places,” he said. “We have to pool our resources. The center is designed as a one-stop shop where victims of domestic crimes can come to get resources to repair and rebuild their lives.”

Stewart spoke to a crowd that included representatives of numerous law agencies, as well as Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler and Caddo Parish Steve Prator, who also spoke. The crowd also included members of the local bar, including U.S. District Judge Maurice Hicks.

The ceremony also included a presentation for Alexis Scott, widow of former Caddo DA Charles Rex Scott II, who died in Baton Rouge a year ago. Scott, previously a city and state district judge, had been an enthusiastic supporter of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Mrs. Scott was unable to attend the presentation, so the memorial was accepted by representatives of the DA’s office.

“Let us rededicate ourselves to protect crime victims’ rights and uphold the basic belief that all people should be able to live safely and free from fear, violence and intimidation,” Stewart said at the end of the program.

The scheduled outdoor event was moved inside due to inclement weather, but rain ended with the close of the ceremony, allowing release of three white doves as planned.

Monday’s ceremony was the first of several events at which he will participate in coming days, with many open to area media to cover.

On Wednesday, April 13, Caddo Parish District Attorney James E. Stewart will address the monthly meeting of the Caddo/Bossier Domestic Violence Task Force. This will be at 11:30 a.m. at Ernest’s Orleans Restaurant, 1601 Spring Street Service Road, Shreveport.

There, Stewart will detail such topics as formation of the new Special Victims Unit within the DA’s Office. An assistant district attorney and an investigator will be assigned exclusively to the unit.

The task force is a group of local professionals and volunteers from various disciplines who meet monthly to network, provide education and awareness opportunities to the public and promote methods of supporting victims of domestic violence.

President Barack Obama first declared April to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2009, though as early as 1976 “Take Back the Night” and other events rallied women in organized protests against rape and sexual assault. These coalesced over time into a movement across the United States and Europe to raise awareness of violence against women. By the late 1990s, many advocates began to coordinate activities and events throughout the month of April, advancing the idea of a nationally recognized month for sexual violence awareness and prevention activities. SAAM was first observed nationally in April 2001. The month also is sexually transmitted disease awareness month in the United States, promoting education about STDs and prevention.

To attend the meeting, contact task force president Jim Taliaferro at (318) 617-9805.

The following day, Thursday, April 14, the Caddo parish Sheriff’s Office Re-Entry Facility at 1121 Forum Drive will be site of an 11 a.m. Crime Victims’ Service Award Ceremony.

That that day, a private reception will be held at 3 p.m. in the Caddo Parish Courthouse, 501 Texas St., Shreveport, to honor the memory of former Caddo Parish DA Charles Rex Scott II, whose family will present the office with a portrait of the late judge. The portrait will hang in the Francis P. Bickham Building, 525 Marshall St., with images of previous Caddo Parish district attorneys.

The reception will be held in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week that started with Monday’s ceremony at the federal courthouse. It is observed annually to honor crime victims and survivors and highlight the unique issues that can arise from their experiences. Facilitation is through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime,¬†

The reception is for employees of the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office. Media interested in covering the event should contact Leone Fitzgerald, director of the First Judicial District Victim Assistance Program, at (318) 226-5916, Ext. 1.