Validating fellow survivors when they need it most:
kylie’s journey to legal advocacy
Author: Max Sheffield, former Newhouse resident and fellow survivor
Kylie wasn’t taught about consent and red flags that indicate abusive relationships in her small, conservative town. In high school, Kylie dated someone older who began emotionally manipulating her and pressuring her into sex. “I was fully under the impression that you can only be assaulted by someone you don’t know,” Kylie said. “I had this idea that you owe your partner sex, which is not true.”
Kylie broke away from her abuser and started to move on. She turned to a close loved one for support and validation. “The first thing that she said to me was, ‘Are you sure you just don’t regret it?’ And I think that comment and that conversation thereafter really has affected how I respond to trauma.” Having your experiences questioned and not believed is an unfortunate yet common experience for abuse survivors. At the time, Kylie chose not to pursue legal avenues due to fear of backlash.
Lifting Her Voice to Help Others
Kylie saw the lack of awareness of consent in her peers and became determined to be an advocate and a safe source of education for others. Many fellow students started coming to her for questions about navigating relationships. “I always knew I wanted to work with domestic or sexual abuse survivors because it’s so hard to ask for help. And I’ve lived with that pain and anxiety. And so when someone does ask for help, I want to ensure that they have it because I didn’t have that…”
In Spring 2022, Kylie became a court advocate at Newhouse, Kansas City’s first domestic violence shelter. Survivors at Newhouse have Kylie, other legal advocates, and an Attorney to lean on during the legal process to safely exit their abusive situations.
Helping Survivors Show Up Confidently in the Courtroom
Court hearings are times of elevated stress and panic for survivors. They’re often facing their abusers or having to relive their experiences as testimony. As a court advocate, Kylie accompanies them to the courtroom and offers tools to help them stay calm, confident, and able to navigate the legal system. When supporting her fellow survivors, Kylie said, “I’ve found that there is a lot of power in simply saying the phrase ‘I believe you, your experiences and your feelings are valid.’” Newhouse supports survivors to break the cycle of abuse. This starts by helping them find safety and believing their stories.
As Kylie works through her own healing, she compares it to a spiral: “You’re not back in phase one, you’re just passing by and still moving up. And that silly little spiral really sometimes helps me get through with those really, really hard times.” Survivors work through triggers and challenges brought on by their trauma and accept where they’re at without self-blame. Healing is not a linear journey, it’s an evolution. Fortunately, Newhouse legal advocates like Kylie are there to validate survivors and be in their corner when they need it most.
Thank you, Kylie, for serving survivors at Newhouse through your gifts and talents.