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Hey everyone! My name is Kristen Hunt, and I am in my final year at UNC pursuing a B.S. in Psychology with minors in Neuroscience and Spanish for the Health Professions. Only five weeks into the Spring 2021 semester, I can say with complete sincerity that my time with the Karen M. Gil Internship Program has already guided my passions as a future psychologist and exposed me to what real-world experiences may look like down the road.

Coming into this program, my main goal was finding a worksite that would allow me to make meaningful contributions to the field of Psychology while simultaneously supporting my personal goals of learning and growth. Since 2019, my research interests have centered around gender-based violence in the forms of domestic violence and sexual assault. I have supported or led a variety of research projects with this focus, primarily at the intersection of my experiences as a McNair Scholar and Research Assistant in the Espelage Lab on campus. In 2019, I completed an independent research project that explored associations among peer justification of interpersonal violence, peer victimization, and perceptions of gender inequality with Teen Dating Violence (TDV) victimization. This research highlighted the importance of quality social support following interpersonal violence, and has since motivated my efforts as a researcher and student at UNC. Currently, I am working as a Student Principal Investigator to examine how misperceptions of consent (e.g., the absence of a no is a yes), gender equality (e.g., husbands cannot rape their wives), and sexual assault (e.g., people who dress provocatively are “asking for it”) are associated with negative reactions to disclosures of sexual assault.

With this in mind, I am currently working as a Clinical Psychology Intern at KKJ Forensic and Psychological Services. Also known as “The Purpose Center,” this site is led by incredible mental health professionals who work with clients from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances—from those experiencing the regular ups and downs of life to more severe situations and traumas. My mentor, Dr. Katrina Kuzyszyn-Jones, primarily works with children, adolescents, and adults who are experiencing divorce. During our meetings, we discuss resources for clients who have had especially negative experiences with this process, such as domestic violence before/throughout the separation and how this impacts the aftermath for these families (e.g., co-parenting, legal processes, etc.).

Thus far, my responsibilities have included combining measures for domestic violence to produce one coherent resource for clients, as well as designing a divorce workbook that addresses the different “stations” of divorce (e.g., financial, legal, parenting, community, etc.). I am currently working on the co-parenting aspect of divorce, and incorporating resources on how to talk to children throughout this process. Looking ahead, I will be writing articles for both client and legal audiences based on empirical data, such as “10 Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship.” Additionally, depending on the limitations provided by COVID-19, I may be able to shadow Dr. Julianne Ludlam and/or Lisa Foss, MA, both of whom specialize in trauma.

Ultimately, I am so happy with my experience as a Gil Intern and feel that I have already learned so much about this field! Actively participating in the development of domestic violence resources for clients has demonstrated the exact types of questions that are necessary to understand as a future professional in this line of work. Additionally, I am beginning to appreciate how the inner-workings of an office can “make or break” a professional environment, and how a family-like community (such as the one at KKJ) can make this line of work so rewarding and enjoyable, even amidst the seriousness of the issues being addressed. I am so thankful to the Karen M. Gil Internship Program and all the professionals at KKJ for this experience, and I can’t wait to see how we as Gil Interns intend to apply these lessons throughout the rest of our professional lives!

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