- Associated Press - Saturday, July 4, 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - After 41 rewarding, yet traumatizing, work years, Lynn Ayers is looking forward to having absolutely no plans.

“I need space to figure out what life can be once the weight is lifted,” Ayers said. “Forty-one years of child sex assault cases. Over 16,000 victims. I just need to breathe.”

Ayers intentionally neglected retirement plans because she needs time to let go of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Child Advocacy Center, which she has cared for deeply since founding the “little yellow house” in 1998.

When the advocacy center opened in Antelope Park on a cool, crisp fall evening, she cried tears of joy as a crowd overflowed the area.

But one of the most “magical” decisions of her life would also bring some of her darkest days, she told the Lincoln Journal Star. Ayers personally interviewed over 4,000 victims of child sexual assault.

She was on call for emergency interviews for 10 years straight and spent one Christmas working a child homicide.

“Sitting across the table, listening, seeking to understand, and getting the horrific details necessary to prosecute a case,” Ayers said. “And even then, in your gut, you know this isn’t the worst that happened. Not even close. Those times will stay locked away forever.”

Ayers did an incredible job with the very depressing task of working with children who have been abused sexually, mentally and physically, said Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, who serves on the board of directors at the Child Advocacy Center.

“It’s a tough job that only the CAC does to speak for those child victims and to give a voice to those who don’t have one,” Wagner said. “Lynn did that while still maintaining her sanity.”

It is rewarding to be part of the solution, Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said, but it is a reality that special-victims workers see society in its darkest hour.

“Lynn was so committed to advancing protections for children who are victims of the most egregious crimes you can’t even imagine,” Bliemeister said.

There were many victories, accomplishments and special memories created during her tenure.

Ayers opened two satellite offices, helped train 350 officers across the state on child interviewing, gained national accreditation twice with not a single area for improvement, and built some of her strongest friendships.

Recently, the child abuse charging justification form at the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office was named the “Lynn form.”

Despite the intensity of the job, Ayers has no regrets and encourages other people to follow their calling.

“Some people go through life with a 9-to-5 job,” Ayers said. “This was never a job for me … it was my life and my purpose.”

Ayers joked the best part of retirement will be not worrying every single time she hears sirens on a firetruck or a police car passing by.

She bought a hammock and is helping her daughter plan her wedding. She would like to get involved in politics one day, but is not sure on the specifics.

She will not be doing anything anytime soon.

“Good and bad, this shaped my life,” Ayers said. “Part of retirement is just letting go.”

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