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Message from Executive Director, Heather Campbell

Challenge and Opportunities: #MeToo in Tompkins County

This year has continued to be a time of growth, challenges, and careful listening to the needs of our community and the survivors we serve at the Advocacy Center.  In the past year you could hardly open your inbox or listen to the news without hearing stories of sexual and domestic violence. The #MeToo hashtag became a movement to create space for the truth of survivors and to work towards accountability for perpetrators.  

We heard and saw the impact of this national reckoning in our client numbers last year – and the historic increases in service use.  We are hearing from survivors who are reporting current abuse and feel empowered by the voices of survivors and knowledge that they are not alone.  We’re also hearing from survivors who have never spoken the truth of their experiences before, but felt compelled, or triggered, by national and local events and reached out for support.  In 2017, the agency saw a historic increase in demand for services and this pattern has continued in 2018.

The Advocacy Center continues to engage with survivors, community stakeholders and our staff to determine how do we best use our resources and collective impact  to meet the unique and varied needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence in our community. The Board and staff have taken steps to strengthen our foundation for serving the community. This spring we celebrated the purchase of our administrative building, securing our home in downtown building and strengthening our finances and ability to fulfil our mission. Our staff transitioned from paper client files to a new electronic database that will allow us to more efficiently and confidentially  track the data that our numerous funders require and better translate the support, advocacy and education our hardworking staff provides into meaningful quantitative data that will support future funding. These steps, while not as immediately visible as a new program or service, are critical to fulfilling our mission.

Our staff is constantly evaluating the needs of the survivors we service, the needs and resources in our community, and best practices in the field to strengthen our mission and support the safety and healing for survivors of abuse and their families. To that end–we’re excited to announce that we have started the process of becoming an accredited Child Advocacy Center.  Some of you may be aware that in some other communities, programs like ours that provide specialized child sexual abuse services and a multi-disciplinary team response to investigation and prosecution, have developed into entities called Child Advocacy Centers. Child Advocacy Centers (or CAC’s) look very different from one another, depending on the unique needs of different communities. Some of these programs are similar to ours and provide comprehensive victim services and coordination of the Multi-disciplinary Investigation team, as has existed in our community since 1987.  The sexual abuse services in our community were created before the development of the CAC model and met the needs of victims in our community, so for many years there wasn’t a compelling reason to formally pursue accreditation as a CAC. NYS has now committed to the CAC model and as part of our commitment to remaining on the forefront of providing comprehensive wrap around services to sexually abused youth and their family members we’re dedicating the resources to become an accredited Child Advocacy Center.  We believe that state, an in the future national, accreditation will ensure that we’re providing the highest level of services in our community–and will hopefully open options for future funding to enhance services in Tompkins County.

This year the Advocacy Center will embark in engagement and conversation with the goal of turning that conversation into action.  How do we create justice and safety for survivors in our community? How do we include and center our conversations on the voices of those most vulnerable?  How do we engage our entire community in the work to prevent future abuse? Please join us in this conversation at community events, through volunteering, everyday actions, and supporting us with your donations.  We need your voice and your support as we answer these important questions for Tompkins County.


Heather Campbell, MSW  
Executive Director
Advocacy Center