A survivor and a ‘fighter,’ our latest cover woman for Rochester Woman Online is the oldest of six children, has been employed with the New York State Police since 2003, promoted to Investigator in 2016, and has been a board member of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children since 1996.

Sayeh’s story of survival as a young girl has been publicized throughout the media when on September 22, 1988, Sayeh, then age 8 and her sister Sara, age 6, were kidnapped from their home during the late night by a man known as Raymond Warfield Wike, one of their mother’s boyfriends. She survived the brutal attack, identified the man who had committed these horrific crimes, and because of her experience began a journey of becoming the voice for other victims.

Rochester Woman is truly honored to be able to talk with Sayeh about her truly incredible journey, her amazing career in law enforcement and advocating for victims, her beautiful family and so much more. She is the true definition of inspiration and empowerment and we are honored that she is sharing with us her her greater purpose and what has led her to where she is today.

Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Sayeh Rivazfar in 2023?
I am a 43-year-old momma to an amazing 11 year old boy, wife to my best friend, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, a 19 year veteran with the New York State Police, survivor of trauma, and a strong voice for crime victims of abuse.

Tell us about growing up as the oldest of 7 kids and what that dynamic was like.
The dynamic of growing up the oldest of seven kids was often chaotic to say the least. I was a mom/sister to them all. I often had no privacy, no one really did. I shared almost everything I had with them then i went off to college. The difference in age from me to the youngest is almost 20 years apart, 10 years from the second youngest, then it’s eight years, seven years, four years, and lastly two years difference. I missed parts of their young lives, but was a safe place for them. Having a large family gave me purpose. I had to lead by example. I believe I’m a better person for it and wouldn’t want it any other way.

What lead you to join the NYS Police force, and then to becoming an investigator?
As a young child, I was faced with making decisions no child should every have to endure. Unfortunately, there were more adults in my life as a child who stood aside and watched while others in uniform became my hero taking away the monsters in our lives. I wanted to be like those in uniform and stop the monsters from hurting the innocence in this world, our children. I wanted to have the biggest positive impact and what better way to do that then join the state’s largest police force. Becoming an investigator was my true calling with the State Police because I was able to use my training and experience to help investigate the cases that involved children.

You have been involved with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children since 1996. What lead to this involvement?
Our family went through an interstate custody battle because my mother filed for custody in the state of Florida. I left Florida for my brother and I to stay with our father. We were faced with the decision to speak to the media to have our voices be heard. Many people came to our aid, including, but not limited to the community, local politicians, and agencies like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Since then, my father and I became very involved with giving back to our community through helping the NCMEC with victim’s, their families, speaking at their events.

Can you tell us a little bit about your past the lead you to speaking on behalf of victims everywhere, and becoming involved with the Bivona Child Advocacy Center locally?
I am a thriver of all sorts of childhood trauma, domestic violence, sex abuse, rape, kidnapping, and murder to name a few. I knew what happened to my siblings and I was a grave injustice, and we were failed by so many in our lives. The Bivona Child Advocacy Center (BCAC) is a place I wanted to be apart of because it’s a place that would provide the most help and support a family would need going through such trauma unlike my family did. The BCAC provides forensic interviewing, family advocates, mental health services, medical examinations, and much more than one can think of to help these families through some of the worst times of their lives. It’s truly great work from people who are very passionate and devoted to helping these victims.

How did she emotionally and mentally learn to get thru the ordeal of your childhood? Therapy? Faith?
My brother and I eventually moved with our father, who lived in Rochester New York, with his wife at the time and our other siblings. We felt safe being away from where everything happened. I had the mentality of never wanting to let our monster get away with what he did to my sister and me. I also received so much trauma therapy and support, that without it, I’m not sure where I would be today. If you want to know more about the case, please look up People vs. Warfield Raymond Wike in 1988.

Being an investigator, can you tell us what are signs that people can look for that neighborhood children may be being abused or are in dangerous situations?
Some signs or red flags that may occur if children are being abused that you should pay attention to are a change in their behavior, if they are surrounded by domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, physical signs, such as wetting themselves if they’ve been potty trained for some time, asking questions related to sex that aren’t age appropriate, and children being singled out and taken from everyone else often by the same adult. Sadly, our children are being lured over social media apps too. Please be highly diligent and supervise them as much as you can. Educate them. They need to know if they take pictures and videos without their clothes on, these monsters will share them with others, and it could affect their future. Make sure they know about correct names of their body parts, and ok and not ok touches. Knowledge is power.

What about those who have gone thru something like that but have never shared it: what’s the first step to healing and processing that they might want to consider?
The most important first step to healing is acknowledging that you are a survivor and aren’t alone. You deserve happiness. Find your support system and understand your trauma doesn’t have to define you. It’s ok not to be ok. You will have good days and bad days, but as long as you value life and want to make a difference whether it’s for the children that surround you in our family or other children that need someone to be their hero. Find healthy coping mechanisms and get help when you need it. Warriors are warriors because they have fallen and rise again to fight another day!

Tell us a little about what it is like to be an investigator. What are your favorite and worst parts?
Being an Investigator is the most rewarding position on this job other than being a uniform Trooper. Investigators work on the worst and most dangerous cases, using our expertise and experience to solve them. The worst parts about being an Investigator would be the paperwork you have to complete to support your case and then it all depends on the judicial system to ultimately serve justice.

What is the most rewarding part of your work with the Bivona Child Advocacy Center?
The most rewarding part of my work with the Bivona Child Advocacy Center (BCAC) would be helping the children and their families. Providing them hope, support, and sometimes a little justice will go a long way. Knowing you are some kid and their family’s hero because you did your job well. It’s not always about the arrest at the BCAC, it’s about how this child and their family learn to live their life putting this horrible event behind them and live life to its fullest despite their trauma. This job can’t be done without the team at the BCAC. We have an amazing team of people we get to work with, and we all have a common goal, do what’s best for the child.

Can you share a little about how you balance work and family, having such an intense job and then having a beautiful wife and son at home?
Balancing work and family life can sometimes be tricky. It would be an absolute miracle if work didn’t leak into my family life. However, I have a wife who loves and supports me, and a son that understands my job keeps kids safe. We enjoy traveling together and selfcare is a priority.

What makes you the happiest?
What makes me the happiest, is knowing my family are safe and healthy. I would be perfectly happy if I was unemployed because everyone in this world would be safe and didn’t need the police. Sadly, that will never be the case.

Who is one person who has inspired you and why?
I believe my sister Sara has inspired me the most. In her short life of almost seven years she lived, she gave me strength to fight for what’s right. She stood up for what she wanted and told people how she felt without reservation. I think of her often and know she’s looking over me as my guardian angel.

Many call you a survivor, and a true inspiration. Has that fueled you become who you are today and working with others that have gone through similar experiences?
I will always be fueled by those who feel the inspiration and positive impact of my message. The moment it’s lost, I will know it’s time to stop sharing my message and move on.

What made you settle in Rochester, NY?
My father moved to Rochester, NY, when he met his second wife, and she was from here. When my father won custody of my brother and I, we moved up with them. I haven’t left yet because once I graduated high school, I went on to college at SUNY Fredonia, and then shortly after I graduated college, I was accepted into the New York State Police.

What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful woman leader especially in a male dominated field?
The most important qualities of a successful woman leader in a male dominated field would be having confidence in your work, knowing your self-worth, and being a team player!

What has been your most memorable experience to date personal and professional?
Personally, I would say becoming a mother at 32 was the most memorable experience to date. It was a difficult pregnancy; however, I would do it all over again for my son! Also, I must mention that it took my years to find it, but I found the most unexpected love of my life in my wife, Kelly. Now, professionally, I would say receiving the Young Professional Athena Award in 2017 would be validation that my mission is a positive impact on others and that can only give you hope that your legacy will never die.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself and why?
Team player, determined, and passionate. As a young athlete of team sports, I learned you win and lose as a team. As a mother, I’ve learned it takes a village to raise a child. And in my career, I’ve learned you will be more successful working well with a team. I describe myself as determined because all my life giving up was never an option. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t determined to keep fighting. And lastly, I am very passionate about my family, friends, and work. Those who know me, understand if I’m involved, it’s all or nothing. I believe in hope and love, striving for it every day is important to me!

Who have been some of your biggest supporters throughout your career?
Some of my biggest supports throughout my career would be my wife, kids, family, friends, coworkers, and even the community. I consider myself blessed because I’ve been supported most of my adult life.

How do you deal with difficult situations or people?
Honestly, I put difficult situations and people in perspective. I ask myself, have I dealt with worse? Yes, yes, I have. Therefore, the difficult situations and people aren’t really that difficult anymore.

Tell us something most people don’t know about Sayeh Rivazfar.
As my wife would say, I’m a marshmallow, a softy. You wouldn’t know that by my tough exterior, however, I’m the most loving, caring, sensitive, and romantic person you’ll meet. I have days that I still struggle. Being a strong person, doesn’t mean you don’t have bad days, and that’s ok.

How do you feel you inspire others, aside from the obvious?
I would say I believe I inspire others to look deeper into their lives and understand you are only given one chance at life. You aren’t promised tomorrow, so do and live your best each day you are given. Change or even save a life by caring and wanting to make a positive difference.

How do you continue to learn and expand your knowledge?
I enjoy learning and gaining more knowledge by attending trainings and participating in conferences. Times are changing and you must keep up on what’s new and important to our future generations to come. I learn a lot from the kids. They will keep you on your toes.

Is there anything that you thought was impossible before, but were eventually able to achieve? If so, how did you make it happen?
I don’t feel like anything is impossible if you put your mind to it and never give up. The power of positive thinking is how I live my life. Keep hope alive by understanding you can survive, you can fight, and thrive.

What are some of the tactics you use to maintain a positive attitude, especially with everything you have been through?
I keep negative people and situations at bay. I have healthy coping mechanisms, such as excising, sports, watching movies, listening to music, a little shopping, traveling to warm places, and any time I can spend with my wife, son, family, and friends.

What would you say are your personal values? How do these values influence the way you live and work?
I would say one of my personal values that influences my life would be when someone makes me feel less valued, they don’t deserve you in their life. Live for today and leave those behind who don’t lift you up!

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?
I would say my biggest challenges in my career were turning my brain off when I left work. I also found it difficult missing family events, holidays, and monumental moments with my son. You dedicate your life to this career and wont ever get the time back, make it worth it.

What do you have planned next?
I’m retiring from the New York State Police in December of this year, it will be 20 years. I want to enjoy more family time and travel the world to spread my message. There is hope and I am living proof that not only can you survive but thrive!