TROY, NY. – Inside the start center NEWS10's Christine O'Donnell sits with a victim and her mother in one of their therapy rooms.
We are concealing their identities to protect them. The victim, who just turned 17 asked to be called Peyton, her mother, Hailey.
“Here, I always felt safe,” Peyton said referring to the START Center. START is an acronym for “Sexual Trauma Abuse Recovery Team”
Peyton has been coming here for 6 months. She was 16 years old when authorities say she was sexually abused. She says coming to the start center has changed her life.
“Before I was depressed, I felt lonely, angry. I didn't know what to do. It was just me against the entire world and everyone was just against me. Now, I feel like I'm on top of the world. I feel like I can do anything. I'm me and no one can push me down anymore,” Peyton said.
“How does it feel hear her say that mom?” NEWS10's Christine O'Donnell asked Peyton's mother.
“Amazing, amazing,” Hailey said “Because I will be very honest with you If Sergeant Holcomb didn't come and start this process. I really thought she was going to kill herself. She would have been dead,” Hailey said.
The START Center is a non-profit therapy-based child advocacy center. Their mission is to provide services that reduce trauma that children and their families endure due to being a victim or a witness to abuse.
Kevin Maloney, a senior therapist at the center says they serve more than 400 children in Rensselaer County every year.
“I think the prevalence is much higher than people think,” Maloney said. He sees roughly six children every day.
“I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect me at all. It does affect me from day to day and I think to do this work it needs to affect you a little so you continue to work and to care,” Maloney said.
Peyton says The START Center saved her life and she hopes that if anyone else is every in a similar situation they tell someone and get help.
“Don't ever get in that situation where you want to kill yourself. There's always someone there to help no matter what. Write it in a journal, write your feelings out. Someone will always be there to listen not to judge,” Peyton said.
The START Center is holding their annual fundraiser called “The Taste of Fall” next Wednesday, October 17th at The Franklin Terrace Ballroom from 6:00-9:00 p.m.
That fundraiser will included a special dedication to Dr. Richard Hamill an invaluable advocate and friend of the START Center who passed away this year. The new location of the START Center will be named “Hamill House” in his honor.