By: Kendra Kaul, Sexual Assault Outreach Advocate
I am Kendra Kaul, a sexual assault outreach advocate. The majority of my work focuses on teens who seek services at Family Advocates. I offer numerous support groups in various middle and high schools within the area. I provide classroom presentations on healthy relationships to provide insight, education, and prevention of sexual and domestic violence. There is also a need for one-on-one sessions with teens if they would rather not be in a group setting or want extra individual peer counseling. As an advocate, I am here to believe, listen, support and encourage individuals.
Issues that local teens are facing have been mainly unwanted sexual acts. This includes individuals being threatened by someone else to send their naked pictures out to the public, having unwanted sexual pictures being sent to them, being forced into sexual activities, unwanted touching in hallways, sexual harassment, sexualized name-calling, and/or unwanted sexual comments. Teen dating violence includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, or stalking that occurs between two people in a close relationship. Teen dating violence can occur either in person or electronically.
I have also worked with many teens who have experienced controlling partner relationships. Here are some examples that I have seen girls struggle with: not being able to see certain friends, controlling who they can talk to over the phone, and having to spend most of their time with their controlling partner. These all isolate them from their family and friends, guilt-tripping, shaming, manipulation, and being threatened into doing things that they usually would not do. You can help stop the violence by promoting healthy relationships, creating a space where everyone feels safe and comfortable, speaking out when hearing harmful language, teaching consent, and challenging gender role stereotypes. By supporting the development of healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships we can reduce teen dating violence and prevent long-lasting effects.
Teens who are in abusive relationships experience severe psychological conflict, leading to changes in their behavior. While anyone can be affected by domestic violence, teens are more likely to be affected by the long-term effects of abuse including, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, and an increase of re-victimization later on in life. Teens may exhibit antisocial behaviors such as lying, theft, bullying, or hitting. As a society, we need to be aware of the prevalence of teen dating violence because the violence that adolescents experience can set the stage for problems in future relationships, including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and are at higher risks to be re-victimized.
I want to help and educate teens so they do not have to be put into these harmful situations. I want to help those who may already be in this type of relationship, so they have someone to talk to, and I can help them with the situation that they are in. If you are a teen, parent with a teen, teacher, coach, or anyone who knows of a teen going through something like this, please reach out to me. I will always be here to listen and help in any way I can. You can call or text me at 608-330-2591; if you need immediate assistance, call our toll-free confidential hotline at 800-924-2624.