District Attorney’s response to abusers: “Justice is in full swing”

With couples and families forced into close quarters through quarantines and social distancing, domestic violence cases are on the rise, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office warns.

“With mandatory lockdowns, victims are hidden from the eyes of the community,” Caddo District Attorney James E. Stewart says.

Not only will there be more cases of family violence, but also more severe injuries to victims since batterers may feel no one will see evidence of the attacks.

The health crisis has created stress and fears of unemployment, sickness and death, all factors that may cause batterers to intensify their abuse. Additionally, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders force victims into isolation with their abusers. And helping hands and resources may not be as readily available to victims seeking to escape or simply survive the violence.

Despite challenges, Stewart has a clear message for abusers: “Justice is in full swing.”

The District Attorney’s Special Victims Unit, which is the front line for domestic violence cases, continues to actively work cases as they come. The unit’s investigators and attorneys are in contact with victims, witnesses, and law enforcement officers who first respond to domestic violence incidents.

“We have an entire network of people within the district attorney’s office and the community who are still working with victims on a daily basis,” Stewart says. “The virus doesn’t stop domestic violence, and it doesn’t stop our prosecution of it.”

Help is still available to victims through the courts by way of bond hearings and protective orders. The Caddo Clerk of Court is still handling protective order applications and judges are still able to issue those orders in civil and criminal courts.

Project Celebration, a local advocacy group, stands ready to assist victims with protective order applications, shelter and other basic needs. The contact number for Project Celebration is (318) 226-5015 or toll-free (888) 411-1333. An advocate works both numbers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Victims may also contact the Family Justice Center at (318) 505-7139 or online at www.nwlafamilyjusticecenter.org.  Victims in immediate danger should call 911.

“Domestic violence cases have always been a top priority in our office,” Stewart says. Despite recent events, “we will keep doing what we do—protecting victims and holding offenders accountable.”