Kaitlyn’s Story

Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper is a mother, a high school coach, a swimmer, and a survivor of child sexual abuse.

Kaitlyn was 14 years old when she was sexually assaulted by an employee at her high school who also happened to be a gymnastics coach. During the time of the abuse, Kaitlyn became pregnant by her perpetrator. She later disclosed this to her school officials, after her graduation, and he was fired. The perpetrator was then re-hired at her school even though the school district authorities were aware that he had sexually abused her.

Kaitlyn first disclosed the abuse to her counselor.

“I felt very comfortable talking with her. She prepared me on how to share the abuse with my mom and explained what grooming was and looked like. She helped me realize I was a victim of grooming. I then went home and told my mom, and she was supportive. It was sad and I could tell my mom was distraught.”

Kaitlyn mentioned that her mother was “trying to process it herself” during the time. Although it was difficult, Kaitlyn and her family were thankful that they had Kaitlyn’s daughter in this world.

Now a youth coach herself, Kaitlyn is concerned about potential predators’ access to young people. She notes that she has seen local news stories regularly over the past six years about a teacher or a coach assaulting a student.

“Coaches are the top perpetrators and there are a lot of reasons behind that. One, they are typically younger. You communicate with your athletes more and spend more time with them. You have more things in common. You spend more time with your coaches than with your teachers.”

She’s pleased to see more schools and youth-serving organizations making safety a top priority.

“I am a swim coach at a local private high school where they run background checks on new incoming teachers and coaches that are in place to keep children safe. Furthermore, there are rules regarding communication with my athletes. You cannot follow students on social media. You can’t text a child without a parent in the chat or another coach. You can never give a child a ride home. There are a lot of rules, and they are in place to protect yourself as a coach and to protect the athlete. If there are no rules, things will get broken.”

Kaitlyn also believes it’s important to talk about sex education and sexual abuse early.

“We started talking about Jesus and God when I was two. I knew who Jesus was and that was a complex topic to understand. I understood he was someone we prayed to and someone who watched over us at a very young age. But this is a comparison I used to use a lot in defending talking to my daughter about sex. What’s the difference? We talk about Jesus and that’s super complex too.”

In Texas, sex education is limited, which is why Kaitlyn advocates at the local, state, and national level.

 

 

“We need to teach and talk about consent and grooming. Because I was so unaware of what that meant, it took so long to realize and process what actually happened to me.”

Kaitlyn is speaking out now but was not comfortable coming forward initially. She noted that “it was when Aly Raisman, the American gymnast, was giving her testimony that I realized I needed to tell my story too. It needs to be heard far and wide.”

Remember, she says, that “shame is not yours to carry. It’s theirs. Regardless of what your story may look like, whether you knew the person, whether you consented on going over, whether there were drugs and alcohol involved, whether you had consensual sex before, whether that is your boyfriend or girlfriend, whatever the case may be, you can be standing in front of someone totally naked and revoke consent. And that is where it stops.”

DNA evidence can increase likelihood of holding a perpetrator accountable.

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