Suffolk prosecutors honored about a dozen survivors of child abuse and neglect, who the mayor said “inspire a whole city,” during an emotional ceremony on Tuesday.
The survivors were honored as part of the office of District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s annual Now You See Bravery Ceremony at Boston City Hall.
Standing in front of a backdrop of enlarged photos of survivors’ eyes, Conley praised them for disclosing their physical or sexual abuse to authorities and helping to bring perpetrators to justice.
“Every time a survivor comes forward, another candle lights in the darkness,” Conley said. “People are moved and they’re inspired. ... You are making a difference and you are helping the larger community.”
He said the survivors’ stories demonstrate that “children should be believed and they should be supported.”
After remarks from Conley, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and other officials, the young survivors came to the lectern one-by-one to receive certificates.
They also heard supportive adults who helped them through the legal process choose one word to describe them. Those words included “fearless,” “strong,” “unbreakable,” and “determined” for the survivors, who ranged from age 5 to middle-aged adulthood.
Among the honorees was Saraliz Maldonado, 21, the first survivor to ever be photographed for the Now You See ceremony. The Globe does not name victims of abuse unless that person agrees to be named publicly, which Maldonado did.
On Tuesday, she was honored for her continued commitment to the event and to helping other survivors.
Maldonado said afterward that it felt “awesome” to be recognized.
She said the abuse she suffered for years at the hands of a relative came to light when she was a teenager and wrote about the ordeal. Her sister found the letter and told her mother, who contacted authorities, Maldonado said.
Her abuser was eventually convicted, which she described as “the light at the end of my tunnel.”
Now a student at Wheelock College, Maldonado hopes to work as a child advocate when she graduates.
She said Tuesday’s ceremony “is important, because there are so many children out there who don’t know” about the help available to them. Maldonado said she hopes the photos of survivors will help others “to see and be able to speak up.”
During the ceremony, Conley praised Walsh and Polito for working together when they were state legislators on behalf of victims.
Walsh praised the survivors for their strength in coming forward.
“At a very young age, many of you faced a very difficult situation but you displayed courage,” Walsh said. “You stood up for yourself. ... You inspire a whole city.”
The officials also lauded the prosecutors and support staff who work in Conley’s Child Protection Unit, as well as the Boston police detectives and investigators from other police agencies who offer help to victims.
Polito, the lieutenant governor, joined the chorus of officials praising the honorees.
She said survivors educate the public “about coming forward, and that it is safe and OK to do so.”
The ceremony concluded with a musical performance from a young survivor, who sang a popular Justin Bieber tune that had the crowd of roughly 100 people clapping to the rhythm by the end of the boy’s rendition.Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.