ITHACA, N.Y — At a beach themed breakfast with balloon animals, beach balls and ridiculous hats eased the tone of why more than 260 people attended a 7:30 a.m. breakfast banquet on a Wednesday: child sexual abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking.

The annual event was started in collaboration with District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson and Louise Miller, Director of Programming at the Advocacy Center nearly 20 years ago. The two women heard about a similar event happening in Syracuse and thought it might work in Tompkins County.

“She got up early with me…and we went to check it out and it was great,” Miller said.

It took a couple of years or so before the two were able to make the breakfast happen with support from the center’s board, but even the first year it was a success.

Roughly 100 people showed up for the event, setting the ground for the number of attendees and donations to more than double.

Keynote speaker Maureen Kelly, vice president for Programming and Communication at Planned Parenthood of the Southern Tier Finger Lakes, said, “When Planned Parenthood and the Advocacy work side by side we actually do something totally revolutionary. Together, we name the reality of violence and abuse that people face. We also talk about healing and sexual health and what it can look like to be honest and real as we explore sexuality and our relationships….we actually tell the truth. We listen to people’s truths. ”

Throughout her speech, she said that open communication about sexuality in all its forms — reproductive, pleasure, identity and abuse — leads to creating a community where abuse is more likely to be identified and reported.

In 2015, the Advocacy Center served 1,400 people, including 97 children or teens victims of child sex abuse, witnessed or experienced domestic violence and, and witnessed or experienced teen dating violence. The center also provided short term assistance and care to 244 people, according to Director Heather Campbell.

For more information about the Advocacy Center and the services they provide, click here.