Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month – Kayla’s Story

February marks Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, highlighting the grave statistic that up to 19% of teens endure dating violence. At Harbor House, integral to our mission is the proactive prevention to break the cycle of abuse. Recognizing that prevention is crucial, we understand that breaking this cycle goes beyond aiding children exposed to abuse in their homes. It involves connecting with youth in our community, educating them, and ensuring their futures are shielded from the scourge of violence.

17-year-old Kayla bore witness to the harrowing dilemma of her mother trapped in a relentless cycle of abusive relationships. Fueled by an unyielding determination, she vowed to create a different path for herself, declaring that she would never allow anyone to subject her to the same mistreatment her mother endured. Driven by a passionate desire to break free from the chains of violence, Kayla yearned to find solace and support, not just for herself, but also for her beloved mother.

Fate intervened when Kayla was invited to participate in a semester-long curriculum facilitated by the Harbor House Prevention Team. Kayla felt an indescribable sense of belonging – a profound conviction that she was in the right place at the right time. As she delved into the curriculum, Kayla discovered Harbor House’s free and confidential services, along with invaluable lessons on building healthy relationships. Armed with newfound knowledge, she shared these resources with her mother, empowering her to make the brave decision to call the 24/7 confidential hotline.

Reflecting on her journey, Kayla expressed profound gratitude to Harbor House – for not only rescuing her mother, but also for equipping her with the mental toolkit and resources to navigate the complexities of relationships with confidence. Kayla declared that the cycle of abuse ends with her – proof to her unwavering commitment to rewrite the narrative of her life and pave the way for a future illuminated by love, respect, and empowerment.

Our Prevention Team is actively spearheading programs across Orange County, guiding students through the Expect Respect curriculum. This curriculum explores important topics such as identifying healthy relationships, effective communication, recognizing red flags for potentially harmful individuals, understanding the portrayal of violence in the media, and more.

Aside from engaging in programming with youth, Harbor House’s Prevention staff is also accessible to provide presentations to parents and the wider community on these pertinent subjects. Constructing a secure future defined by healthy relationships for the upcoming generation is a collective responsibility. Collaborating with youth, parents, and the community is pivotal in breaking the cycle of violence that spans generations.

*Name changed to protect identity.