City of Syracuse and Onondaga County increase efforts to prevent child abuse

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As April comes to an end, it was an important month in the ongoing effort to prevent child abuse.

At a press conference on Wednesday at the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center, community leaders and partners addressed the increasing need to help children who’ve experienced any type of abuse.

Jarrett Woodfork, Chief of the Special Victims Bureau within the Onondaga County District Attorney’s office, works directly with children who experience forms of physical, sexual and/or domestic abuse.

“Within my unit, we obviously prosecute very serious sexual and physical abuse cases, as well as domestic violence cases,” Woodfork explained. “We have discovered that there’s not just sexual abuse and physical abuse that our children are experiencing in this community, there’s also an emotional and moral trauma that they’re experiencing with the street violence.”

The emotional trauma often goes unnoticed, which is why the City of Syracuse, McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center, District Attorney’s office, and Syracuse Police are focusing on it.

“The fact that a child will have seen or heard gunshots before they have had an experience at the zoo, is unacceptable,” — Jarrett Woodfork

The pandemic has certainly and perhaps, disproportionately impacted our young people, our children, who have been isolated from their friends and often times, from their family.

Unfortunately, for some of those children, that means being home with abusers. We need to double-down on our efforts to help our young people. We need to acknowledge the many different ways in which they experience trauma.

Mayor Ben Walsh, City of Syracuse

The McMahon Ryan Advocacy Center says the biggest challenge throughout the pandemic has been getting children who’ve experienced abuse to seek help.

Another roadblock is that many cases of abuse stem from violent crime incidents, which some aren’t being reported in the first place.

What that tells you is that people are having shots fired outside of their house and they’re not calling anyone. Think how abnormal that really is, that we need technology to assist us because people have stopped calling in certain areas because it’s become normal.

Our critical role is we often see these young people at the worst time in their lives and in many instances, some of those negative incidents are sometimes police related. This gives us an opportunity to be a bridge to services, programs and resources to help those individuals that are experiencing these traumatic moments.

Chief Kenton Buckner, Syracuse Police Department

Each organization is hoping by making resources more accessible, it’ll empower children to speak up and get the help they need.

There are people that care about you. There are ways to deal with your surroundings and your environment and ways to cope with what you’ve experienced. We need to tell them that it’s not normal. What you’ve seen is not normal, what you’re going through is not normal. Let us help you.

Jarrett Woodfork, Chief of Special Victims Bureau, Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office

If you know of a child in immediate danger, call 911.

If you suspect a child is being abused, you can call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 342-3720. That hotline is monitored 24 hours a day.

More information about the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center can be found here.

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