Every day children across America are exposed to violence in their homes, in their schools, and in their communities. They may be struck by a parent, bullied by a classmate, or assaulted on the street. They may witness family and friends being subjected to such acts of violence. This exposure may cause significant physical, mental, and emotional harm with effects that, without proper support, could last into adulthood, including an increased risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system. (cont.)
To better understand the nature and extent of the problem, the Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sponsor the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. The survey is the most comprehensive effort to date to measure children’s exposure to violence and the first survey to ask children and caregivers about exposure to a range of crimes, violence, and abuse across the age spectrum. The survey found that a startling 60 percent of American children have been exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities and 40 percent were direct victims of two or more violent acts.
In an effort to reduce these high levels of violence, Attorney General Holder announced, on September 23, the Defending Childhood Initiative as a priority for the Department, “Through renewing and refocusing our efforts to serve our nation’s most vulnerable and most distressed children we can transform the country we love for the better – one child at a time.”
The Defending Childhood Initiative involves local partners in comprehensive and collaborative plans to prevent children’s exposure to violence, mitigate its impact on its victims, and increase public awareness. A central component of the initiative is funding for demonstration sites, research, evaluation, public awareness and partnerships. The eight demonstration planning grants were awarded to the City of Boston (MA), the City of Portland (ME), the Chippewa Cree Tribe (MT), the City of Grand Forks (ND), the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners (OH), the Multnomah County Department of Human Services (OR), the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (SD), and Shelby County (TN).
The Office of Justice Programs is committed to working with Attorney General Holder and all who share our concerns and our dedication to protecting children from violence and exposure to it. The launch of Defending Childhood marks a significant step forward to that end.
What more can our community do to protect future generations from violence and abuse? Let us know in the comments.