CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Making sure survivors are heard and feel safe is the mission of one Flour Bluff high school student.
It's the bigger goal behind a teddy bear drive that took place at the school, led by freshman Kaylie Kelley, who is working to educate her peers on the topic of assault and how it can impact someone's life.
"I feel that the students in our school need to be more educated on assault and how common it is, and how serious of a issue that it is at school," Kelley said.
Through the drive she says she's hoping to teach her classmates and community about overcoming fear and using your voice, and explains the significance behind the bears:
"I want other students to know that it's good to come forward, and that they should come forward with their stories," Kelley said. "Because there always is gonna be someone who will help them. And the teddy bears are what you get out of the forensic interview."
Kelley is a survivor of sexual assault and wants other survivors to feel the level of protection she experienced when she received her teddy bear after coming forward with her story.
"It can be a traumatizing experience," Kelley said. " And I know personally that it's very scary, so the teddy bear brings comfort to the situation. And it'll always remind you that you kept yourself safe and that you're brave."
Cassandra Hinojosa with the Children's Advocacy Center of the Coastal Bend says that while it may be something scary to think or talk about, that bringing awareness to how often sexual assault and abuse cases occur is incredibly important. This way, people are also aware of the help that is out there.
"We provide free services to around 1,500 children each year," Hinojosa said.
The center provides free services like free forensic interviews, free therapy, and referrals for therapy if children need a medical exam.
"To help those children, provide them with the resources they need to provide healing for them and to help restore their lives and futures," Hinojosa said.
Kelley adds that sometimes it's the small things that can make all the difference in a heavy situation.
"The teddy bear really helped me," Kelley said. "I felt that kids in our community would donate because we do have a great community here and it's worked out so far."
Drop-off boxes can be found at the entrances of Flour Bluff ISD schools, as well as: the Coast Guard Unit, Surfside Sandwich Shoppe, Bluffalo Wings Company and Scuttlebutts Bar and Grill.
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