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How Far We've Come

November 29, 2022 / Adult Advocacy Centers

A young Black man with intellectual disabilities smiles at the camera as he sits outdoors in a park.

By AACs Board President Mary Turocy

This time of year, when I reflect on the things I am grateful for, I find that my ability to work with the Adult Advocacy Centers (AACs) is near the top of the list. I have been a member of the AACs’ Board of Directors since its inception in 2019 and participated in some of the challenging parts of creating a new nonprofit from scratch. Though the early months at AACs were busy and challenging, it is clear now that it was well worth the hard work. I am grateful for the opportunity to help lead such an impactful organization and work with its amazing staff and community.

Despite getting off the ground only months before the global pandemic, the AACs has already made a huge impact on the disability and victims’ rights communities. In just three short years, the AACs have accomplished everything from publishing research about emerging issues related to crime victims with disabilities to providing direct services to survivors. To name just a few of the AACs’ accomplishments since 2019, we have:

  • Increased training offerings from one training on forensic interviews of crime victims with disabilities to 12 different trainings on a wide variety of topics;
  • Trained hundreds of professionals to better understand how to serve crime victims with disabilities; 
  • Partnered with law enforcement agencies from Ohio and around the country to offer forensic interview services to people with disabilities in very difficult situations following a crime;
  • Grown from a staff of three to a full-time staff of six;
  • Brought in expert consultants with a wide range of expertise to ensure we’re hearing from diverse perspectives;
  • Utilized staff and consultants to advance research and understanding of issues impacting the disability community;
  • Partnered with other agencies to develop protocols and publications to educate members of the criminal justice and victim advocacy communities;
  • Received the Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award in 2021 and the Ohio Attorney General’s Promising Practice Award in 2022; and
  • Been featured in the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) theme video as an example of an organization providing “Rights, access, equity, for all victims.”

The AACs have also laid the groundwork for more trailblazing initiatives to support and uplift people with disabilities. Direct services are a key part of AACs mission and are needed all over the state of Ohio. For individuals in rural areas and for individuals with disabilities that make travel difficult, the AACs hope to create a mobile RV unit. As a person with friends and family members living in rural areas of Ohio, I am so grateful to know want to bring their services to those places that so often get left out. However, we are still seeking funding for this critical resource.

For me, perhaps the most exciting thing on the horizon is the creation of bricks-and-mortar centers to provide direct services to crime victims and survivors with disabilities. As featured in an October 2022 article by Forbes, the AACs engaged an architecture firm specializing in accommodating individuals with disabilities. This bold and uncompromising commitment to provide all necessary accommodations to crime victims with disabilities is unparalleled and sets an example for other direct service providers to come. Still, the creation of these centers requires the participation and funding of local governments, and the AACs continue to work to secure the necessary supports.

Again, I am extremely proud, humbled and grateful to be a part of the AACs Board of Directors and the amazing work that AACs’ staff and partners continue to do. I can’t wait to see the impact the Adult Advocacy Centers will have in 2023 and in future years. If you would like to be a part of this movement for change, I hope you’ll consider donating to the Adult Advocacy Centers and reach out to your local leaders to urge their support of our programs. The work we have done so far would not have been possible without the participation of the disability and victim advocacy communities, and the future work will not be possible without your help, too.

Mary Turocy is the Director of Public Affairs for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the state agency responsible for enforcing Ohio’s laws against discrimination.  She holds a Master of Science degree in Gender, Development, and Globalisation from the London School of Economics, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Denison University. Before working for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Mary served as Senior Policy Analyst for Disability Rights Ohio, Ohio’s Protection and Advocacy system for people with disabilities. In 2015, while at DRO, she researched and authored a white paper on the sexual abuse of individuals with developmental disabilities, including policy recommendations for Ohio. This research shined light on the many barriers to appropriate services for adult victims of crime with disabilities. Prior to her work at Disability Rights Ohio, Mary was a Senior Fiscal Analyst for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, conducting research and drafting legislation for the Ohio General Assembly. A committed advocate for civil and human rights, Mary currently serves on Ohio’s Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council and is an active committee member for The Matriots PAC, a nonpartisan political action committee dedicated to electing more Ohio women to public office. Mary’s dedication and passion for equity and justice drive her support and involvement in Adult Advocacy Centers.