Gen Aware: Young People Fighting Against Domestic Violence

ABC Heywire contributor and Check It Fest organiser Jessica Carolyne

Jessica Carolyne’s life experience and love of community projects has inspired the co-creation of Gen Aware — a concept that tackles domestic violence.

“Young people don’t really understand what violence in their relationships is,” Jes, who identifies as gender neutral, said.

“Without being taught about it, how can you know what it is?”

Gen Aware aims to raise awareness about domestic violence among young people through educating them on relationship and sexual violence, what a healthy relationship is and where to seek help if necessary.

After experiencing domestic violence as a teenager, Jes was inspired to present the Gen Aware concept to the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre on the Gold Coast, which then received funding through the ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grants.

“My poor mental health as a teenager was the result of domestic violence growing up and then being sexually assaulted when I was 15,” Jes said.

“When I was sexually assaulted, it took me a month to realise it was assault.”

“This is why Gen Aware is so important. Nobody should have to go through abuse and not know that it is not normal or acceptable.”

The free event features music, food and activities and aims to raise awareness of mental health services for people aged 12 to 25 years.

“We hope to get young people to understand what relationship and sexual violence is,” Jes said.

Gen Aware is also working with a local school to spread its message.

“We want them to know what relationship and sexual violence is.”

“We want them to know what consent is … what a respectful relationship is, to know if something isn’t right and where to get help,” Jes said.

Gen Aware is also creating a phone app which explains the different forms of relationship violence.

Jes believed that domestic violence was a growing issue for young people and without access to support services it could result in serious mental health issues.

“Experiencing violence is terrible for one’s mental health,” Jes said.

“We can work hand in hand with the mental health sector, ensuring that we have better mental health outcomes for young people.”

The road to recovery

Jes’s experience with domestic violence resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia nervosa.

Support from Jes’s mum was critical on the road to recovery.

“My mum is an incredible person who did everything she could to protect us, and has gone above and beyond in making sure I got a good quality of care for my poor mental health,” Jes said.

“There is nobody I look up to more than her.”

As a teenager, Jes was told not to expect to get better, that they would experience severe mental illness for life and as a result could not expect to be able to work or study full time.

“I am now doing what my mum says is more than a full-time load,” Jes said.

For now, Jes will continue a full-time Honours degree in social work as well as working and volunteering at headspace and co-running Gen Aware.

Gen Aware will be at the Gold Coast’s Check it Fest at Broadwater Parklands, Southport on Saturday October 29.

For more information, head to the Gen Aware on Facebook or the Check it Fest website.

If you ever need someone to talk to, you can contact Headspace, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Reachout and BeyondBlue.

Q Life is the national Australian queer helpline on 1800 184 527.

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