Group to support murder victims’ families _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Jeffrey Rouse was sworn in as New Orleans' ne coroner Monday, May 5, 2014.

For families of victims, murder scenes can be as frustrating as they are emotionally devastating. Grief-stricken loved ones confront the realities of an active police investigation, grasping for answers as detectives process clues and follow leads.

In a bid to help family members cope with the shock of homicide, Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse on Wednesday announced a “first of its kind partnership” designed to ensure that at least one victims’ rights advocate makes it to the scene of each of the city’s murders.

The victims’ support group Silence Is Violence has begun working with the Coroner’s Office “to provide emotional, logistical and criminal justice support to family members who have lost loved ones to homicide,” according to an announcement from Rouse’s office.

“This effort breaks new ground in providing support to the families and survivors of murder and violence,” Rouse said in a statement. The partnership, he added, “is another example of how my office will serve every New Orleanian, no matter where he or she may live, and will address the mental health concerns of our city.”

The Coroner’s Office has agreed to notify Silence Is Violence of all calls about homicides it receives.

Tamara Jackson, the organization’s executive director, said that Rouse, since being sworn in last year, has had “a vision of getting on the front end of victims’ services.”

She said the partnership will help victims navigate various social services and the criminal justice system.

In responding to murder scenes herself, Jackson said, she has served as a liaison between victims and the authorities, “increasing the probability of correct information being shared and also offering care to families when they’re at their lowest point.”

Investigators want to speak with families, Jackson said, “but their sole purpose is collecting details so they can solve the crime.”

“My sole purpose,” she said, “is to connect with the families.”

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