After she was shot a year and a half ago, Alicia Littlejohn faced a recovery that was not limited to recuperating from her physical injuries. The shooter was someone she thought was a friend. And it took place near her own home in Baton Rouge’s Stevendale neighborhood.
“You feel like everything that you knew and everybody that you trusted is a question in your mind,” Littlejohn said. “Everything in life becomes a question.”
But within one week of the shooting, she forgave the man who shot her. And with help from a victim’s assistance counselor in the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office, Littlejohn has been able to move on and focus on life with her three young children.
Littlejohn was among about 100 people at a picnic hosted Saturday by the District Attorney’s Office and the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination project on Saturday at BREC’s Howell Park. The third annual picnic fell at the end of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the goal of which is to raise awareness of resources available to crime victims and their families, like the counselors who helped Littlejohn.
“Knowing that there are people in the same situation and life goes on and people move on and people still care, it restores a little bit of your faith,” Littlejohn said.
In addition to people who are murdered, many more are injured in violent crimes and face the difficult process of going on with life, said District Attorney Hillar Moore III.
“The victimization part is really huge, and it kind of goes unnoticed for the most part,” he said. “This is a recognition that we understand your pain — what can we do to help.”
Kirsten Raby, director of victim services in Moore’s office, said many crime victims aren’t sure of their rights or how they can get help.
“Our office is all about bringing awareness to that in itself — making sure they’re aware of their court dates, making sure they’re aware that they can be at court and work with their attorneys, and know exactly what’s going on and when it’s going on,” Raby said.
Though the picnic was meant to be fun — people enjoyed hot dogs and sno-balls as children played games and danced to music — it also provided an opportunity to learn more about various services provided by law enforcement agencies and community groups.
Several counselors from the District Attorney’s Office who work with victims were on hand Saturday, including the one Littlejohn said she calls regularly.
“I know I bug that woman,” Littlejohn said. “She’s like, ‘No, you’re not bothering me,’ but I’ll be on the phone just crying for hours or confused about something.”
“She just encourages me to keep focusing on life,” Littlejohn added.
Moore said it’s important to have a relationship with victims and their families. Counselors from his office can offer help, but a victim’s “voice means a lot to us” too, Moore said.
Counselors try to visit victims of violent crime who are expected to survive while they’re still in the hospital.
“Normally it takes us three or four weeks to get a file,” Moore said. “Can we get something going? Can we set up a safety plan if they need it? … Getting that contact and that bond real quickly is really beneficial for us, and they seem to talk more to a regular layperson than someone with a badge and gun.”
Saturday’s event also served as a celebration of the lives of people who died at the hands of criminals. Carolyn Carter, who spoke to the crowd about the March 2014 murder of her son Emanuelle Myles, urged the community to work together to stop crime.
Carter, who recently started an anti-violence organization called Be the Big Man, also called on parents to be aware of what their children are doing. Brandon Boyd, 19, was convicted in the slaying of Myles, who was 24 at the time.
“While the memories of Emanuelle are so sweet, with them comes the realization that he is gone,” Carter said.