ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Earlier this month, a Hilton elementary school principal, Kirk Ashton, was charged with multiple counts of endangering the welfare of a child and sex abuse. Nine boys between the ages of 8 and 12 have come forward alleging abuse.
The Bivona Child Advocacy Center has been at the center of this case, working with the children to help them heal. News 8 spoke to them Monday about some of their work on this, and how they approach traumatic abuse in children.
Anna Potter of Bivona says this is one of the largest cases they’ve worked on, and like law enforcement said last week, with Kirk Ashton’s time at Hilton going back 17 years, the possibility for more victims is there.
This whole process they do with the kids is collaborative in nature, and Potter says through something so traumatic, there is the potential to heal.
“I can’t recall a case of that magnitude. Ever.” says Potter.
Potter says with the case against the Hilton Elementary school, the youngsters will get the very best Bivona can offer.
“This is, in my opinion, the hardest work ever,” says Potter.
She says something like this starts with a collaborative effort, usually with law enforcement. All the disciplines are at Bivona — from the disclosure of a case to medical, prosecution, and mental health help.
“It all is about starting where the kid is and what they have to say,” says Potter.
Will the pain ever go away? No. But Potter says she’s an optimist. “This is a trauma in someone’s life that they can absolutely heal from,” and become successful adults.
Potter says like many cases, what Ashton is alleged of doing has had a ripple effect.
“This has betrayal of the entire community written all over it,” she says.
When it comes to people in power positions using that against children, Potter says it’s not always just grooming a youngster for abuse.
“The power and control comes into play for the parents,” she says, so that…if a child alleges abuse, parents might think twice about the claims.
“So if something comes up they say ‘I know him, he would never do this,'” she says.
Right now, she says so many across the region have so many questions. While it’s tough, she says for the community to be patient.
“If they let that investigation and that process fall into place, we will all get the answers,” she says.
There are so many levels to the care Bivona provides and people involved, but at its core, it’s about helping children heal.
“Just knowing that we’re saving kids’ lives, that’s what keeps us going.”