The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse is one of three dozen across the state that can apply for a share of $10 million for the investigation of child abuse cases. The grants would cover the cost of paying a trained forensic interviewer and video recording equipment.
State Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin stopped at the McMahon Ryan Center to make the announcement. She says the interviewers are critical to the successful operation of the state’s child advocacy centers, not to mention the outcomes of prosecuting cases and the health and well being of children…
"They are trained, which is critical to investigations, and also to make sure they understand how kids relate, how they speak."
Onondaga County First Chief Assistant District Attorney Rick Trunfio agrees, and says a medical team and therapists are also keys to getting justice for abused children.
"The forensic interview is so vital to putting our case together, and not being attacked by defense attorneys who are doing their job representing people accused of child abuse. That is so important."
Elizabeth Cronin knows how critical that multi-disciplinary support can be. She served as a special victims prosecutor in the 1990’s, and just last week, received a call from a survivor who told Cronin how much of an impact her office had on her life. She says back then, centers like McMahon Ryan were a pipe dream.
"For me to be able to come in here as a state official with the ability to fund programs like this really brings me full circle to the mission I had as a prosecutor," Cronin said. "It really tells you how far we've come in treating child abuse victims."
A SURVIVOR BREAKS HER SILENCE
A Syracuse survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of her older brother over a decade ago says the people and services at the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center transformed her life when she came forward just three years ago.
This is how Katie Bailey started her story at yesterday’s announcement of the available grant funding.
"I am no longer a victim. I was once a victim, but I no longer see myself that way," Bailey said. "I would not be able to see myself or carry myself as a survivor if it wasn't for McMahon Ryan."
Bailey has degrees in criminal justice and criminology, which she says have also helped find her voice as a survivor. but that wasn’t always the case…
"I lived my high school experience, I was a senior. I was just about to graduate when I came forth," Bailey said. "I decided I didn't want to be a scared little girl anymore in this grown body. I'm about to go to college. I hand this mindset that I wanted to change my life. In order to do that, in order to pursue my career in criminal justice and criminology, I needed to take care of myself. I needed to conquer the fears that tormented me for 10 years."
She says luckily, she came into a team of people who gave her security to grow. That’s where the trained forensic interviewer and others helped her through the process.
"I did not just have Detective Clark Farry who helped me feel comfortable, safe, and secure in an environment to be able to speak of my darkest, worst time of my life," Bailey said, her voice shaking. "But I also had Maureen, who literally prepared me for what I had to go through, what I went through, full stride, to prosecute my brother James."
Bailey says she was repeatedly abused by her brother from ages 9 to 12. Monday was the first time she publicly identified herself as his victim. James Bailey faces 32 years in prison when he’s sentenced later this week.
Katie Bailey says her days of feeling isolated and avoiding intimate relationships are gone…
"I no longer feel the solitude. I feel happy," Bailey said. "I feel so fantastic, it's unbelievable. You have no idea how well I feel. It's awesome. I'm able to stay in a relationship now. I can be in a relationship I feel comfortable in and feel [like] myself, and that's something I thought I'd wouldn't be able to have."