ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monday, former Hilton elementary school principal Kirk Ashton was found guilty of 46 of 50 counts of sexual abuse against students.
The incidents involved 26 boys at the time over the course of 17 years.
To help with the investigation, the Rochester-based Bivona Child Advocacy Center has been working with victims in the Ashton case over the past year. The center works to support hundreds of children each year who have suffered abuse. The incidents children at Northwood Elementary experienced in the Ashton case are sadly an everyday ordeal at Bivona.
News 8 sat down with Bivona CEO Daniele Lyman-Torres to discuss signs of abuse, what to look for, and what “mandated reporting” means in a workplace.
Bivona’s mission is to support children who have suffered abuse of any kind — physical, mental, sexual — whatever it might be. The type sexual abuse Kirk Ashton inflicted on those students at Northwood Elementary — is something they approach using multiple disciplines including therapy, education, taking to investigators and law enforcement, and all kinds of support for any youngster and their family. This is really a lifetime of recovery— and making sure these youngsters become successful adults.
“Adults in the community or who are working in groups who are talking to even children in their own family — if they have questions, Bivona is a safe place to call,” Lyman-Torres said. “Just call and ask ‘do you think?’ or ‘can you tell us some of the signs’ or ‘should we bring the child in to have a conversation?’ All of that is safe. All of that is fine, and nothing is going to harm the child or their family to have that conversation with us or with the local police department.”
There are a number of professions that are required— by law— to report anything they view as possible child abuse. Many parents are asking about Kirk Ashton at Northwood Elementary: How did this abuse go on for 17 years?
Lyman-Torres says if an adult sees anything like what happened at Northwood— say something… it’s called mandatory reporting. Remember— there is no punishment for saying something to either Bivona, or the authorities. It took 17 years — but now at least the healing has begun.
“I want to acknowledge the courage of the children — who do tell their story and do come forward,” Lyman-Torres said. “And also the love and support of their families that they have to provide and the extended families to get through this process. And lastly, the dedication of the team. The team at Bivona, of professionals who do this day in and day out supporting kids who have suffered abuse and their families in seeking Justice and their tireless efforts in this case and in all others.”
Lyman-Torres emphasized that every child is different when it comes to reacting to abuse — if you notice a change in their behavior, Bivona representatives said it’s a good idea to sit them down and have a conversation, giving the child an opportunity to open up.