The YWCA of the Mohawk Valley held a news conference to recognize Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Herkimer County Community College on Tuesday morning.
“April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month which allows communities to raise awareness of the problem and helps victims to know they are not alone,” said Natalie Brown, executive director of the YWCA Mohawk Valley. “At the YWCA we work as a cohesive team and we really want to make sure children and victims don’t fall through the cracks. We’re here to help.”
Herkimer County District Attorney Jeff Carpenter said local law enforcement encompasses far more child abuse crimes than many people realize.
“Last year Herkimer County had a reported 291 cases of child abuse and that is too many, but with local agencies assisting in these cases, we are taking a step in the right direction,” Carpenter said. “On behalf of local law enforcement I want to thank these agencies for their assistance and someday we will put an end to this abuse.”
“Domestic abuse is something we have to prevent and the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center is a proactive service in our community comprised of law enforcement, social service, medical teams, and counseling services,” said Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol. “As a member of law enforcement we handle the reactive side of an abuse crime, but the advocacy center handles the proactive side and tries to prevent the abuse to the community through promotion and encourages the importance of the reporting process. Just like Herkimer County, Oneida County is committed to protecting the community.”
The National Center For Missing & Exploited Children is a nationwide program that was started in 1984 to help find missing children after the kidnapping of Adam Walsh. Program Director Wendy Fical said the Mohawk Valley established a National Center For Missing & Exploited Children in 1995 to help find missing children in the local area.
“The center helps to track down missing children by targeting specific areas and distributes posters in saturation throughout the surrounding area. Every week we send out about 12,000 to 15,000 posters,” said Fical.
Overall the center has sent out over 8.1 million posters since 1995.
Fical also talked about the importance of cybertipline.com which is a website that can be used by anyone to report child abuse of any kind.
“Since 1998, 23,622 children have been reported missing which is a high number, but thanks to the cyber tip line every single case is looked into,” Fical said.
She said the goal of the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children is to help children, keep them safe and hope that, with prevention, child abuse can be kept from occurring.
SURVIVOR SHARES STORY
During the press conference, Brenda Plumley, a survivor of child abuse and sexual assault shared her story of abuse.
Page 2 of 2 - Plumley’s father abandoned her family when she was a child and not too long afterward her mother found a new partner who moved into the family home along with his brother.
Throughout her childhood and into her early adulthood Plumley had to endure all kinds of abuse ranging from beatings, humiliation, drugs and sexual abuse.
“When we misbehaved my mother’s partner would beat us with sticks and use military type exercises to punish us,” said Plumley. “When I was 8 years old, I remember my mother’s partner slipping an acid pill into my drink as form of punishment.”
Many of Plumley’s childhood memories were filled with unhappiness and torment.
Several calls were made to authorities for several different incidents, but Plumley’s mother fled with her and her partner to another state to get away.
It was hard for Plumley to receive help of any kind after her mother’s partner’s brother became associated with a local police department.
After years of despair, Plumley began cutting herself to deal with the pain and even contemplated suicide, but she remembered she had a phone number for a domestic violence counselor at a safe house.
“I was scared to call but I knew I would eventually look to suicide if I didn’t try,” she recalls.
Plumley eventually made her escape and now uses art as a way to deal with her past abuse. Her artwork was displayed at the press conference as a message of hope.
When she was in third grade, Plumley said, she began doing artwork and discovered she loved it.
“Just before high school is when I got really into it and by the end of high school the teachers told me I could no longer advance in the subject because I had gone as far I could,” said Plumley.
She said she uses an acrylic over glaze paint to keep her fantasy and surreal like paintings protected from any chipping.
Since a lot of subject matter can become exploited, Plumley donates her work to various organizations and people to lend a hand and spread hope.
Plumley donated her work to the Vera House, a domestic violence advocacy center in Syracuse, Take Back The Night, and even the U.K. band Prelude who wrote a song about the effects of trauma called, “Thousand Yard Stare.”
She hopes to display her work and put on an art show this fall.
Despite all she went through, Plumley said she never gave up hope and her wish for those victims facing abuse is that they won’t give up either.
“Never give up hope,” she said. “There are times when it’s hard, but healing happens and it is possible with hope.”