By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – For many children and teenagers, violence in the form of either bullying or abuse endured at home is an unfortunate reality. In light of National Youth Violence Prevention Week, Rae Lynn Simpson of the Kalin’s Center in Crockett spoke with The Messenger regarding this all too common problem.

“I think it’s a pretty big issue now,” said Simpson, who works as a forensic interviewer and program director for the center. “Especially, like, the online bullying and stuff like that. I would say it’s a pretty big issue.”

As Simpson pointed out, the ease of access to the Internet in today’s society has contributed to the worsening of bullying.

“Before, you didn’t have the access to the Internet in your hands,” she said. “So, if kids were getting bullied, it would happen at school, and then, they would be able to come home and didn’t have to hear it. But now, with it being online, it’s with them 24/7 if they have phones that are capable of being on the Internet.”

Simpson cited social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat as means commonly used by perpetrators of bullying.

When asked what a child or teenager should do in the event they find themselves a victim of problematic bullying, Simpson suggested finding and informing an adult who can be trusted to assist in dealing with the situation.

“Just let someone know that this stuff is happening,” she encouraged. “If it’s happening at school, take it to the school, obviously. If the school’s not doing anything about it, then take it to the school board. Just talk about it.”

While bullying is not typically a cause for a child or teenager in the local area ending up being served by the Kalin’s Center, Simpson said reports are still made to them from time to time.

“There’s a few that – while they’re here for other reasons – have said, ‘Well, you know, I do get bullied at school,’” she explained.

Simpson added that the center has started taking steps to raise awareness of bullying to students in schools throughout its service area.

“We’re starting to get into the schools and talk to them about bullying and that it’s not right to do,” she said. “(And we encourage them) that if you do see someone being bullied, let a teacher know.”

The Kalin’s Center, which serves Houston and Trinity counties, specializes in working with children who have endured physical and sexual abuse.

“Mainly, (the perpetrator) is someone that’s in the home, but sometimes, it could be someone out of the home,” Simpson explained.

According to Simpson, the center takes on an average of approximately 10-12 cases per month.

“It increases every year – maybe not by a lot, but it’ll increase for, like, three or five,” she said of the center’s work. “I think that has a lot to do with the awareness. It’s something that’s talked about a lot more now than what it was in the past. More people are aware that child abuse does happen, and it’s not something that’s just behind closed doors nowadays.”

As she suggested for those facing bullying, Simpson said the first step abuse victims should take to get help is informing an adult of the situation.

“A lot of times, the perpetrator is going to be someone they know, and a lot of times, it’s going to be a family member they know – which can put a damper on trying to tell people,” she pointed out. “But it’s really important for them to let someone know that they can trust that’s above 18 and have that person make a report.”

Adults who receive reports of physical or sexual assault of a child should immediately contact local law enforcement or child protective services.

“It’s just really important for them to tell someone,” Simpson said. “It’s the same with bullying. You just need to let someone know and make reports and tell the authorities so something can be done.”

The Kalin’s Center may be reached by phone at 936-544-9455 or via email at info@kalinscenter.org.

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.