ELMIRA (WENY) -- Throughout the month of April, organizations across the Twin Tiers are doing their part to spread awareness and prevent child abuse. While domestic violence may not directly involve a child, they often times become a victim.

"We ensure we have support systems in place for families so they can begin the healing process," says Dina O'Herron, Coordinator for the Chemung County Child Advocacy Center.

In 2016, Elmira Police responded to over 200 cases of domestic violence. The Chemung County Sheriff's office also responded to another ninety.
"I think sometimes the children are the lost souls in those cases," says O'Herron. "A lot of times people think the children don't hear their parents bickering because they're upstairs and the parents are bickering downstairs, or they aren't witnessing individuals hit each other within the home, but the fact of the matter is children know a lot more than we think they know and they pay attention to those things."

They say symptoms can range in difficulty concentrating at school to severe anxiety or PTSD.
Many cases that come through the center often involve a team. The Center regularly works with local police to ensure the well being of all children involved.

"The interview process for children is conducted a little bit differently," says Captain Anthony Alvernaz of the Elmira Police Department. "There's a lot more open-ended questions so that we're not leading right into the allegations--we let the children speak more organically."

Because it's so different, the department has paired with the Advocacy Center to train officers. They're taught how the adolescent mind works to better address situations involving young children.

"The most remarkable thing about the child advocacy center is we have this amazing team of local professionals who work together from day one when these cases occur," says O'Herron.

The advocacy center urges anyone who may be affected by domestic violence to take advantage of their counseling, referral and support services.

The center provides service including forensic interviews, medical evaluations, mental health referrals, victim advocacy and support, case review and tracking, information and referral, and community outreach and education.

You can visit the center at 304 Hoffman Street, Elmira or reach them by phone at (607) 737-8449.