CAC News

Celebration of Courage

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County (CAC), in collaboration with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Massachusetts Children’s Alliance hosted the “Celebration of Courage” in the House Members’ Lounge of the Massachusetts State House on April 30, 2024.

In recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month and the 10-year anniversary of Now You See―a collection of images of the eyes of survivors and those affected by sexual and physical abuse and exploitation―this inspiring event featured remarks from the first survivor featured in the project, legislative leaders and advocates, and a musical performance by a survivor of child abuse.

House Representative Kevin Honan opened the program and acknowledged the important role the community plays in the fight against child abuse. “We all play a role in preventing and responding to child abuse – legislators, parents, advocates, law enforcement, all of us,” said Chairman Honan.

Massachusetts Children’s Alliance Executive Director Tom King offered remarks emphasizing his appreciation for the resiliency and courage of the survivors present as well as acknowledging the critical role that the Massachusetts legislature plays in our collective work: “Together, with your support, we've been able to bridge the gap left by federal funding shortfalls, enabling just under 7,000 children to receive the streamlined, trauma-informed services of our nationally accredited Children’s Advocacy Centers.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden was moved by the courage of all survivors. “I want to thank every survivor in this room, first, for just being here,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden. “Your presence makes this event special in a way it could never be without you. I want to thank each of you for your courage, and for speaking up about what happened.”

Saraliz Rivera, the first survivor featured in the Now You See project addressed the group and her fellow survivors. “I want all the survivors here to know, that I’ve had many difficult days, and it is not fair that we are asked to be strong so much of the time,” Rivera said. “But we do it. And it helps me to know that my experiences and what I do with them, have helped to keep others safe from harm. And I will not stop trying to increase awareness about child abuse and sexual assault and why I will always talk about why Children’s Advocacy Centers are so important.”

Saraliz’s remarks were followed by a powerful electric guitar performance of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody from Sophia, another participant in the Now You See project.

Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County Executive Director Annie Marcklinger Gordon closed the program with a passionate call to action. “Still, there is more work to be done,” she said. “We know that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. We must continue to work hard to ensure that every one of those children receive the care they need and deserve. This can only happen when CACs are funded and, more importantly, when survivors are believed and supported.”

This event celebrated the critical work being done by CACs across the Commonwealth. Children’s Advocacy Centers are a nationally recognized, empirically supported model, and are regularly evaluated to ensure that the highest level of services are provided. CACs are child-friendly centers where a multidisciplinary team of professionals offer a coordinated response to allegations of child sexual and severe physical abuse. In 2023, the 12 Children’s Advocacy Centers in the state of Massachusetts served 6,886 child victims of abuse.