NEW IBERIA, La. — At Bouligny Plaza, the 18th Annual VOICE Rally was held during National Crime Victims’ Week.
Voices of Innocent Citizens Empowered (V.O.I.C.E.) was formed in 2002 by families and friends who have tragically lost a loved one due to violent crimes.
Several victim service agencies and support groups answered questions and provided information at the event. It also allows those to support one another in the healing process and to share experiences in a safe, supportive environment.
President of VOICE Catelane Theriot whose son was brutally murdered in 1994, says having support groups like VOICE can show others that have gone through trauma, they are not alone.
"Voice is here for them 24/7, we are a support group and we are a unique group most of our members are victims of unfortunately a homicide case," Theriot said. "We just wanna make sure they know they are not alone going through that tragic journey."
After her father was murdered 15 years ago, one member joined VOICE and says it's organizations like this that can offer guidance through grief, according to Melissa Long.
"It's amazing, whether it's a hug or you need someone to scream with you or you need someone to just hold your hand," said Long. "It doesn't matter if it's day or night, Miss Catalene will answer her phone, if it's a group meeting which we hold monthly, everyone is welcomed."
Six years ago, Sylvia Pradia lost her daughter, and last year, she lost her grandchild.
"This group is for support, to lean on each other and if you never walked this walk then you wouldn't know what we go through on a daily," said Pradia. "Many people say within time you'll get closure no, you never get closure the hole is forever in your heart."
Without support groups like VOICE, Long says she would have difficulty finding strength on her own.
"I have no family left. I am an only child, so I stand alone. This group gives me the life I need sometimes to get out of bed. It's amazing." said Long.
The event is a powerful reminder of the impact crime can have on individuals, families, and communities.
To find out more information about VOICE and if you have lost a loved one due to crime related violence, click here.