The photography in this project is far from perfect.
These photos were not taken in a studio with good lighting or with a crew.They were taken in waiting rooms, offices, conference rooms and homes.
As you see, each child (and set of eyes) is unique and has his or her own challenges around the trauma. They each cope in their own way. But every child in this project has told someone what happened to them.
And in each photo, the child or adult survivor or caretaker is proud. And their eyes show that. They are proud that they are here and they have something to say. And they are so glad that you are looking at them. And now you see.
District Attorney Dan Conley’s Introduction at the “Now You See” Opening
“We’re here tonight to recognize some truly courageous children – children who did one of the toughest things anyone can do. These kids disclosed physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, defying social pressures, their own fears, and sometimes even perpetrators who said no one would believe them. As everyone here knows, that can be difficult, sometimes impossible, even for grown men and women. And when we were looking for an appropriate spot to honor that bravery, First Justice Terry Craven of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court didn’t just agree to support it – she enthusiastically volunteered this venue.
“Hosting this exhibit in the Suffolk Juvenile Court will maximize its visibility to kids in crisis and their loving caregivers. I spent about 18 months as a Juvenile Court prosecutor early in my career. I got to know many of the defendants and their backgrounds quite well. We all know there’s a link between childhood trauma and behavioral difficulties. We all know that many more children are abused than are able to reveal it. The pictures and words on display here will send a powerful message to kids who see them that they’re not alone – and that it’s safe to come forward. So please join me in thanking First Justice Craven for her generosity and her support.”Ask any prosecutor and they’ll tell you: the most challenging cases we see are those involving the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children. They can be the hardest to investigate, with victims who’ve lost every reason to trust an adult. They can be the hardest to prove, resting on a child’s ability to answer detailed questions in a room full of strangers about deeply traumatic events. And even for police and prosecutors with decades of experience, they are without question the hardest to put aside at the end of the day.
“Because these cases are so personal and so emotionally charged, we take extensive steps to safeguard the victims’ privacy. We let them decide, on own their terms, if and when they want to share their experiences with others. But as a result, the very kids and adult survivors who need to know they’ll be supported in their disclosure can remain afraid or ashamed to come forward. With this exhibit, we’ve found a way to protect victims’ interests while helping them share a message of hope and courage – a message that the other abused kids out there aren’t alone.”Countless times at the beginnings and ends of these cases, I’ve met with young victims, adult survivors, and the caretakers who love them. Looking in their eyes, I’ve seen many things. Sometimes fear and trepidation. Sometimes confidence and determination. But always a sense of relief – after finally sharing a secret no one, especially a child, should have to keep.
“In these halls, you’ll see those eyes for yourselves. They’re the eyes of innocents too often hurt by the very people who should have protected them, of children carrying burdens not even an adult should have to bear. And yet, these eyes are proud. They are loving. They are resilient. They’re the eyes of boys and girls who have endured the most wrenching ordeals of their lives – and come out stronger. We’re here tonight to honor their courage and to help them reach other victims in a way no one else can. ”I mentioned my deep gratitude to First Justice Craven and the Suffolk County Juvenile Court for providing this space, which is so appropriate to the subject matter. But I want to thank three more people for their monumental work on this innovative project.
“First is Jacquelyn Lamont, director of youth safety and outreach for our office and forensic interviewer for our Child Protection Unit. Her personal experiences with these kids inspired her to help them connect with each other and the world around them. She found a genuinely moving way to bring the work we do behind the scenes to an audience that deserves to see it. These are her photos, evidence of the incredible relationships she’s built over time. You don’t build a body of work like this in a 40-hour work week. Like most prosecutors and victim advocates, she’s doing interviews and presentations in the office, out at schools, and in family homes early in the morning, late in the evening, and on the weekends with one thing in mind: the care and protection of our most innocent, most vulnerable clients. She’s worked so hard on so many projects that we could spend the rest of the evening recounting them. Jackie, thank you so much.”I’d like to thank Mattie DiCola of our Multimedia Unit for her technical skill and artist’s eye in working with Jacquelyn to process these images into their most beautiful and powerful form. Mattie produces many of the charts and diagrams we use at trial to distill complex information about time, location, distance, and relation into visual exhibits for jurors. You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words – well, one of Mattie’s diagrams is worth a thousand pictures, and we’re so lucky to have her.
“Finally, I want to thank Susan Goldfarb, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County. The CAC is the hub that connects law enforcement, social service providers, clinicians, and others with the kids who need us most. All of us are at our best when we’re part of a team, and no one can put that team through its paces like she can. For longer than either of us probably want to admit, she’s been living and working one simple philosophy: If kids come to us for help, then we won’t let them down – we will protect them, we will fight for them, and we will never turn our backs on them.”
About Now You See
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and Children’s Advocacy Center received more than 1,000 reports of child abuse last year. These cases included sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and more.
Some of those referrals were the result of babies being brought to emergency rooms with broken bones, burns and bruises.
Some of those referrals were the result of kids going to school with physical and behavioral signs of abuse.
And many of those referrals were the result of a child telling a caring adult what was happening to them. But that is all too rare. Most kids don’t tell anyone when they are being abused. Why? The reasons are too long and complex to state simply. Some are obvious, like a child being afraid of the abuser. Or a child loving the abuser in spite of the terrible things happening to them. Or a child not wanting to break up their family or risk being removed from their own home. Some reasons are not so obvious, like the many kids who we learn were trying to protect their own loving caretaker from the heartache of learning their child is being abused. “I didn’t want my mom to be upset.” “I knew my Dad would do something and I didn’t want my Dad to get in trouble.” These are some of the things we hear consistently.
So when a child does tell, we have a duty to respond and to make that child feel heard and safe. We have a duty to listen and to do whatever it takes to protect them and to help them heal.
Most people do not realize how courageous these children are because they don’t know what these kids have seen, what their bodies have felt and what their hearts have endured. Many people do not understand the amount of bravery it takes to disclose abuse and then to continue on with the difficult process that follows.
This project hopes to shine light on that bravery. So we thank you for being here. We thank you for looking at the eyes of these children and paying attention to what they have to say. As you do, you may feel emotional or even overwhelmed. And if you do, that is ok. In fact, it’s great. Because the kids you read about deserve to be seen and heard. And you are supporting them by taking the time to learn about what happened and to care. So at the end of the night, you can also be proud, that you have joined us in our mission to support these children. And you can be glad and grateful that now you know. And now you see.
Thank you to John Towle, Susan Goldfarb and Leora Joseph for saying “yes” to starting this project and “yes” all along the way.
Thank you to Mattie DiCola for her graphic artwork and enthusiasm.
Thank you to Lisa Goldblatt Grace and Audrey Morrissey for their incredible work with exploited youth.
Thank you to Chelsea Home Depot for building beautiful easels to support the prints.
Thank you to Sgt. Catherine Doherty of the BPD Crimes Against Children Unit.
Thank you to the staff of the Child Protection Unit and CAC who always asked how they could help. In particular, thank you to Kathryn Diperna, Alexandra Horan, Rebecca Harris, Alissa Goldhaber, Sara McEvoy and Daniel Dombak.
Thank you to everyone who helped with the Now You See reception, especially Det. Carolyn Sygiel, Patricia Lamont, Maggi Muirhead, Nancy Isikoff, Scott Arneil and the facilities staff of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court.
Thank you to Judge Terry M. Craven for everything she has done to support the project and this reception and to make it a success. I further thank her for leadership on the sensitive handling of cases involving child sexual and physical abuse in the Suffolk County Juvenile Court.
And most importantly, thank you to the children and their loved ones who participated in this project. “Now You See” is dedicated to them and to the many other kids who have been severely hurt, yet survived and told. They are all heroes. And now you see.
-Jacquelyn Lamont, Forensic Interviewer, Director of Youth Safety and Outreach for DA Dan Conley