Whether you are a parent or a teen yourself, we are glad you are here seeking resources/information. We know that being a teen is hard. There are many challenges from going to high school, learning to drive, preparing for your future, and so much more. Then, those pressures can feel like even more when we experience trauma.
Trauma is defined as an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. What this means is, it makes sense that you might be feeling and thinking differently about the world now. There is no right way to react to abnormal circumstances.
This means it is normal to:
• Ask why
• Feel nothing and everything all at once
• Be unsure of your decisions or questions your own judgment
• Want to be like your old self
• Feel like no one understands
• Fear judgment
• Want to avoid everything and everyone
• Not trust other people or yourself
• Have questions
• Mask your feelings for others
• Worry about what will happen next
• Minimize what happened or think that everything is “fine”
• Feel like it is your fault
This may be hard to hear right now, but we want you to know that whatever happened is not your fault. At Prevail, you can meet with an advocate. Advocates know it can feel scary, but believe in you. They care about your safety. Advocates understand the impact of trauma. This means that they listen, are empathetic, and focused on empowering you. They are really there to be with you whether that is to go to court, support you when you talk with the police or at our Child Advocacy Center, make sure you have a safety plan for school, or help you and your family get measures in place to increase your safety.
We hear from teens all the time about being worried about how their parents are dealing with trauma too. They tell us that they do not want to burden their parents. They say that their parents have enough to worry about. So, we have an advocate that can meet with them too. It is better for you and your parents if there can be communication and openness about your worries and what you need right now. You deserve the chance to talk about your thoughts and feelings without judgement or assumption.
Trauma can also be isolating and silencing. It can feel like no one could possibly understand or relate to you. That’s why we believe there is strength in numbers. Prevail offers support groups in our office and in some of our local schools. These groups are for teens who have experienced unhealthy relationships, sexual abuse, or family violence. Building relationships with people who “get it” can be valuable. We know walking into a room of strangers can feel intimidating AND there is power in not being alone. Connection is healing.
About Unhealthy or Abusive Relationships
People use many different terms to describe unhealthy relationships. We hear words like abuse, intimate partner violence, dating violence, domestic violence, and more. You might feel certain that you are in an abusive relationship. Maybe other people have just expressed concern for your relationship. It is also okay if you are not sure. What we do know is that when one partner is using power and control to threaten the emotional or physical well-being of the other partner, there is an imbalance and reduced safety. Partners who are abusive can threaten physical boundaries, hurt emotional well-being, impact or limit access to spiritual needs/communities, control finances, and exert pressure or force around sex. Some behaviors that are concerning are: jealousy, degrading you verbally, cruelty to animals, unrealistic expectations, isolating or restricting you from support people, rigid gender roles, blaming, and threatening.
We know that layers of oppression and historical trauma can also impact our ability to feel safe to report abuse or even tell loved ones/friends about what is happening. Oppression can happen in individual relationships, but is often active in systems. Systems that are racist, patriarchal, xenophobic, ableist, classist, and homophobic perceive violence as isolated and individual issues. They fail to recognize the intersectionality of race, gender, and class that impact social and systematic polices. Often these policies, negatively impact minority groups and support “othering.” They also ignore the complex differences within these groups. Therefore, we support racial justice policies and believe in language access.
Men can also experience abuse. You may worry about reaching out for support because helping organizations only serve women. At Prevail, all people are welcome.
These patterns of abusive behaviors happen over a period of time. There are many reasons that impact our ability to tell someone about the abuse. Here are some things we often hear:
• It is not that bad.
• Other people feel like I am overreacting.
• I worry about what would happen if I ended the relationship.
• My partner has threatened to hurt themselves or me if I leave.
• I did not know that this was abuse. I grew up believing this was normal.
• I am not out to everyone in my life. My partner has threatened to or could expose this part of me to people I am not ready to tell.
• What will people think about me if they know about the abuse?
• My partner tells me that I am the problem, or it is my fault.
• I love them and they promise they will change.
• My partner is so well liked. Who will believe me or be there for me if the relationship ends?
• My culture or my faith community does not support ending marriages/relationships or my ability to make my own decisions about sex or my body.
• I rely on my partner for assistance due to do a disability.
• We have a child together. What will happen to our child if we are not together?
• The police would not help the situation if I had to call.
• My partner threatens to report my immigration status.
• English is not my first language, so it is difficult to express the depth of what is going on to others.
• I have no one to turn too. I am isolated from my friends and family.
• My partner controls the finances. How could I leave even if I wanted too?
• I am afraid that my partner will disclose my health status with others (HIV, Hepatitis, etc.)
Sometimes people worry that people only want them to leave their relationship. Your advocate is focused on your goals and supporting you. We never expect someone to leave a relationship unless that is the choice YOU make. We understand that leaving may not be the safest option right now. Our advocates want to support you in increasing your safety and empower your decision-making.
About Sexual Abuse or Sexual Assault
Sexual abuse/assault can include force, coercion, the absence of consent, manipulation, and the inability to provide consent. It is most common that people wait to tell someone about what happened. For people who have experienced child sexual abuse, the average age to tell someone is 52. We do not want you to have to wait that long to start your healing. People are also much more likely to be sexual abused/assaulted by someone they know, love, or trust. Advocates respect that it is difficult to seek support, build trust with others, and start the healing process with someone you have never met before.
We also know that the sooner that you are able to tell someone, the better your health and emotional well-being will be. We encourage you to talk to a safe adult. When you tell an adult, they are required by law to report it. You get to decide how much of this story that you ever tell anyone. However, you will likely have the opportunity to meet with an interviewer at our Child Advocacy Center. This is a place where kids and teens go when there is a report of abuse or neglect. It is important to recognize that teens are not interviewed because they are in trouble, but they are being interviewed because safety is important. The team present at the interview cares about you. They will just ask you to be honest. We know you can do that even though it is scary. You will also have an advocate there. They are there to support you and your family.