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Validating the reality of violence and abuse through voices of survivors

When victims enter the criminal justice system, it isn’t out of the desire to prosecute, but out of necessity to make the abuse to stop. What follows is unpredictable, confusing, and in most cases dangerous and unfamiliar territory.

As responders and participants in that system, we sometimes forget that victims are all at different stages. We send messages of judgment and doubt through our tone and questions. Without intention, the consequence is a victim'sloss of trust and faith in justice. As a result, the dialogue is often controlled by the perpetrator and the victim's voice lost in the system.

Being a survivor does not mean a victim necessarily understands their experience. It is our job as professionals within the criminal justice system to assist victims and help them to navigate this uncharted water. By validating their experience and starting with trust, we arm them with the power of knowledge and support rather than judgment and doubt.

We must listen to victims who are ready to speak . They give a voice to the many victims still trapped and mute.

Frequently, we ignore the cross-section between child abuse and intimate partner abuse because we assume they speak different languages. In the end, all victims are looking for validation that we so often take for granted. The world must start to hear these voices - to listen to what they can not always say.

Over the years, speaking to audiences about domestic violence and child abuse led Kelsey to the audience she didn’t even know existed. Those who had never been validated. Those that had survived the abuse, even though they never knew it had a definition. In emails, in phone calls and in evaluations these victims tell me about the validation they had never had. Until now.

Kelsey McKay is an experienced national speaker and former prosecutor of child abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. She is a national expert on strangulation and has trained thousands to understand the breaks in the system to recognize how to put it back together.

She developed protocol for strangulation response, investigation, and prosecution through multi-disciplinary training and implementation of her strangulation supplement. She is the Chair of The Strangulation Task Force in Austin, Texas and founder of Validating Voices, a program that urges communities and systems to respond with a better understanding of the complexities of these violent crimes.