Kristen Paruginog is not only this year’s Teen Dating Violence Summit keynote speaker, but she is the founder and executive director of Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence. A Facebook campaign she started on December 3, 2011, .
“I was in my relationship from the age of 18. At 22, I knew that if I continued giving him control of my life, my life would spiral out of control. I told my mom; I broke my silence. I started a Facebook page as a way to share my story. I soon realized there were other people, not just in San Diego, who were affected by intimate partner violence, I knew that I had to do something.”
Paruginog’s Facebook site continued to grow with comments, questions and those who needed to share their own stories of abuse.
“Break the Silence continued growing and growing. After six months, it became a nonprofit, and I realized the need to help victims of intimate partner violence. 2013 we provided services, and in 2014, we quadrupled the amount of support we are able to offer people affected by violence. Break the Silence is my life, my heart, my soul and the reason I breathe.”
Success comes in all forms for Paruginog. Break the Silence has helped so many people and proof of that comes from stories on the Facebook page.
“There was a mother in Texas, I call her Mama Tammie, who shared her daughter’s story with us for the very first time on Facebook. Her daughter was murdered when she was 22, and Mama Tamie was suffering from depression. She contacted our Facebook page. I said I would love to honor your daughter and I would love to continue her legacy. She shared her story and then she started to heal. That is just one story; there are hundreds more.”
Paruginog connects with all survivors and feels a calling to continue helping those who are faced with intimate partner violence. She became involved with Partnership Against Domestic Violence through a friend.
“I became involved because one of my really good friends was a speaker a few years ago and referred me.” That friend and survivor is Johanna Orozco-Fraser, a speaker at the 2012 Teen Summit. “I have a huge passion for talking to teens, because I was that teen. I was that kid who was in the relationship. I just feel that sharing my story is a way for other teens to understand and connect. I know there are others walking in my shoes. They are not alone. I want them to know they can do it, just like I did.”
Paruginog was mentally, emotionally, sexually, physically and financially abused as teen by her boyfriend. She understands the importance of mentoring and educating teens about domestic violence.
“Teens are dating younger and younger, and they don’t know about healthy relationship. They aren’t having those conversations, at home, at school or anywhere, really. The Teen Summit is an opportunity for young people to learn about healthy relationships. The summit provides an opportunity to engage and to be in a place where it is safe to ask questions and where they’re not going to get judged.”
“It is really important for nonprofits or domestic violence organizations to promote programs like this because these programs are going to touch those who attend.”
It is important for teens to have an adult to talk to. According to Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Fatality Review, statistics show that 68 percent of teens do not confide in their parents. They need to know what resources are available to them. Paruginog encourages teens who might be facing dating violence to tell an adult.
“I have talked to a lot of teens in high school and asked what would they tell their friends if they were in an abusive relationship, would they even know where to tell them to go? Out of the 400-500 students, maybe one or two knows the answer. It is a problem that teens don’t know resources are out there. In the event that they themselves or someone else experiences dating violence. I would tell them to talk to a school counselor, to a parent, teacher or contact a domestic violence agency that is closest to them.”
The 2015 Teen Dating Violence Summit will be held March 14 at the Primerica headquarters. To learn more about the event or to register for the Teen Summit visit http://www.PADV.org.
To learn more about Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence check out their Facebook page here, https://www.facebook.com/breakthesilence1. Check out their website here, http://www.breakthesilencedv.org/.
“I want to let people know they are not alone; there are resources that are out there. So people that are reading this that might be victims of intimate partner violence know that there are resources and we as advocates are here to help. “