WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Driving past the Victim’s Assistance Center’s main office in Watertown, hundreds of pinwheels have lined the lawn throughout the month of April.

This was to bring awareness to child abuse incidents that the VAC saw across the North Country last year, which advocates considered “alarming.”

“One in ten children are affected by child abuse and sexual assault,” VAC Development Director Kristin Proven said. “90% of the time, it’s someone [the child] knows.”

According to the VAC, in 2021 it provided support to 696 child victims in Jefferson County, 132 children in Lewis County and 466 children in St. Lawrence County.

“When [children] come to the agency, they come to the Child Advocacy Center of Northern New York; we serve the tri-county area,” VAC Development Director Kristin Proven said. “We help [children through every step of the process.”

Proven said the pinwheels displayed in Watertown are ultimately to bring awareness to an ongoing issue that is only getting worse.

“Every year the numbers are increasing, so there is certainly an issue,” Proven warned. “So if we can help any child, we would love to do that.”

This same level of advocacy is also being spread regarding sexual assault, as the Center aims to help all victims share their stories.

“So our goal really is to turn any victim into a survivor so that it empowers them to tell their story and they are not ashamed of what happened to them,” Proven concluded.

To continue to support the Agency’s mission, the VAC is hosting its Unmasking Child Abuse Online Silent to benefit its program. Items are available from many local businesses and organizations in the North Country.

Bidding is available on the VAC’s website and will close at midnight on April 30.

If you are a victim of abuse or assault, help and support can be found below:

  • Victim’s Assistance Center of Jefferson County
    • 24-Hour Hotline: 315-782-1855
    • Child Advocacy Center of NNY, Watertown: 315-788-8520
    • Child Advocacy Center of NNY, Canton: 315-261-4228
    • Main Office: 315782-1823
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673