Dr. Kelly Buckholdt | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Dr. Kelly Buckholdt

Photo courtesy Kelly Buckholdt

Photo courtesy Kelly Buckholdt

Every year, about 9 percent of high-school students report physical abuse from their significant other, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on youth-risk behavior surveillance reported in 2011.

To some people, this statistic may seem foreign, but for Eva Jones, founder of Butterflies by Grace, Defined by Faith, it's a real and important issue that needs to be addressed. The nonprofit is committed to helping people of all ages who currently face or have faced domestic-violence issues, whether from a significant other, family member or elsewhere.

Butterflies by Grace will host a special workshop Saturday, May 23, geared toward high-school students called "Start Relating Before You Start Dating." The workshop is designed to help teenagers understand the dangers they may encounter in relationships. The workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature psychologist Dr. Kelly Buckholdt as a guest speaker.

Buckholdt, 38, is originally from the Washington, D.C. area. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her bachelor's degree in psychology in 2001. She later journeyed back east to attend the University of Memphis, where she received her master's degree in psychology with a child and family specialization in 2008 and a doctorate degree in clinical psychology in 2013.

She moved to Jackson in 2012 to participate in a yearlong pre-doctoral residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Consortium (2500 N. State St., 601-984-1000). Since completion, Buckholdt has worked as a psychologist at G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center (1500 E. Woodrow Wilson Drive, 601-362-4471).

At first, Buckholdt wanted to become a clinician, but she soon realized that she enjoyed the research and program development aspect of her work, as well. She met Jones through a program in April.

The event was part of a national outreach challenge for the VHA Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program to screen and help victims of domestic violence. Buckholdt and her team at the VA have has since won first place for her challenge and will be able to share her findings with veterans affairs hospitals across the country.

Jones asked Buckholdt to speak at the Butterflies by Grace workshop because, as a psychologist, she knows that talking about issues is the only real way to move past them.

Fear of speaking up is one of the most common attributes associated with victims of physical abuse. According to a study that Teenage Research Unlimited published in February of 2005, only 33 percent of teenage victims in abusive relationships ever tell anyone about it.

Multiple studies support the idea that this can have a negative effect on mental health, possibly leading to depression, anxiety, risky behavior and suicidal thoughts. Buckholdt's aim is to encourage young people to realize that they are not alone, that it's not their fault and that there are resources to support them. Another key goal is to teach parents how to listen to their kids and not impose judgment, as many young victims already experience self-blame.

"Just letting them know they are available to talk when (the teenager is ready) is really important," Buckholdt said.

The "Start Relating Before You Start Dating" workshop, which Butterflies by Grace, Defined by Faith hosts, is Saturday, May 23, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops (100 Bass Pro Drive, Pearl, 601-933-3700) in Pearl. For more information, visit www.butterfliesbygracedefinedbyfaith.org or call Eva Jones at 601-953-5747 or 601-896-2509.

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