See our interview conducted with one of our CPs discussing violence prevention.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. TYAN conducted an interview with Kaitlyn Eberhardt, Education and Prevention Director of Texas Advocacy Project. Texas Advocacy Project’s mission is to “end dating and domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in Texas. Texas Advocacy Project empowers survivors through free legal services and access to the justice system, and advances prevention through public outreach and education. Our vision is that all Texans live free from abuse.” Check out what Kaitlyn shared with us below.

TYAN: How did you get involved in sexual violence work?

Kaitlyn: Before Texas Advocacy Project (TAP), I worked with a team that organized an annual conference that brought together people from various legal aid organizations across the state. I met TAP’s Chief Legal Officer there who led a presentation on digital abuse – I was actually her conference room monitor who held up the “5 minute warning” sign and made sure her mic worked properly! I was fascinated by the way she spoke of dynamics of power-based abuse and supportive legal and social strategies for victims. I went home and learned as much as I could about this form of interpersonal violence and TAP made space for me.

TYAN: What can communities do to protect youth from domestic and sexual violence?

Kaitlyn: Prevention encompasses so many different things – the opportunities are endless! We need to prioritize teaching youth about the dynamics of consent and ways they can cultivate healthy relationships and friendships. Weaving consent into every type of a lesson is a simple shift we can all start today. You can ask a child, “would you like me to help you put on your jacket?” or you can let them know they don’t need to kiss their family member goodbye – they can give them a hug or a high five instead. This can begin at a very young age and can become a pattern of self assurance in a child’s life.

We also need to teach young people about financial literacy and independence, as 99% of abusive relationships have some form of financial abuse and it’s often cited as the main reason a victim cannot leave. We can also intentionally create systems of support for young people who don’t have “built-in” support from family and friends. We must equip parents and supporters with resources to prevent dating violence, as well as teach safe bystander intervention. I could go on and on, but that’s a good start!

TYAN: How do we better educate stakeholders on the importance of protection for youth in our communities?

Kaitlyn: Some people like stories and some people like data – but I think we need a bit of both when we’re trying to understand a problem. Enter: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Every person intersecting with youth in ANY system must prioritize education around ACEs and luckily it’s easy to find information – I recommend starting with the CDC’s website. ACEs are potentially traumatic experiences that can happen in one’s childhood that may increase the risk of future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. However, we must also educate ourselves on Positive Childhood Experiences and protective measures that are shown to lower risk of these same issues. This can include things like having at least two non-parent adults that genuinely care and having the ability to talk with family about feelings. I’m excited that the positive side is being studied more and there’s new research coming out all the time in this area.

TYAN: What has been the most inspiring part of your work?

Kaitlyn: At TAP we have a program called Teen Ambassadors of Hope where we teach young people how to advocate for themselves and others in the space of dating violence prevention. So often I receive texts from the teens and other alumni who have grown up and out of the program and they’ll share success stories of moments they saw a red flag behavior and trusted their gut to leave a potentially dangerous situation, or times when they were able to use the knowledge they have on trauma and abuse to support a friend in the aftermath of an assault. They’ll also occasionally share some healthy break-up stories where they were able to guide their partner through a conversation that helped them both learn and grow. When I read these texts, my heart glows knowing they are set up for success and have a healthy understanding of what they personally want and deserve in relationships and friendships.

TYAN: What is your favorite part about working with this population of people?

Kaitlyn: We do everything we can to not take any further power and control away from survivors of sexual violence by telling them what we think they should do or what path they should take. The survivor is the expert and authority in their life. We can hold someone’s hand and empower them with information and validate their experiences, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones taking the necessary steps for themselves. I think that’s a beautiful thing and it feels really good to be a part of someone’s story in that way. Empowerment is contagious and when someone feels empowered, they pass it on in ways they may never realize.

For more information about Texas Advocacy Project and their mission, check out their website here.



Organizations interested in starting or expanding their youth-adult partnerships can apply to be a Community Partner. As a Community Partner, organizations can access to exclusive materials, technical support, funding, and more!