Attorney General Eric Holder affirms that children’s exposure to violence is nothing less than a national crisis. With this public health issue comes serious ramifications for the future of our country and the young men and women who will soon be called upon to build that future.
The horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 elementary school children and six adults last December served as a shocking reminder of how much is at stake in the ongoing fight to protect the most vulnerable citizens: children. Nearly every day the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School is compounded by individual tragedies that take place on the streets of big cities and small towns across the country that too often pass unnoticed.
The most comprehensive study of children’s experience with exposure to violence is the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), first conducted 2008-2009. Results indicate that 60 percent of children surveyed had experienced at least one form of violence or abuse over the past year, nearly half experienced at least two forms of victimization, and 8 percent experienced seven or more different types of victimization. An update released earlier this year confirms that this data remained fairly stable in the study done in 2011.
Defending Childhood Initiative
In response to these troubling statistics and others, Attorney General Eric Holder launched the Defending Childhood initiative on September 23, 2010. The Attorney General has been personally and professionally committed to this issue for many years, dating back to early in his career when he served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and through his tenure as Deputy Attorney General. Building on lessons learned from previously funded research and programs that Attorney General Holder spearheaded, such as Safe Start, the Child Development-Community Policing Program, and the Greenbook Initiative, Defending Childhood leverages existing resources across the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to focus on preventing, addressing, reducing, and more fully understanding childhood exposure to violence.
In addition to funding eight sites to develop strategic plans for comprehensive community-based efforts that will further demonstrate the goals of the Defending Childhood initiative, DOJ committed additional funding for research, evaluation, public awareness and training for professional members and affiliates of national organizations through the initiative. To date, the Initiative formed the Defending Childhood Task Force to look at the problem of children’s exposure to violence and what needs to be done.
Task Force Report and Recommendations
The Defending Childhood Task Force heard testimony at four public hearings, on comprehensive research, as well as extensive input from experts, advocates, and impacted families and communities nationwide. The final report, which included findings and comprehensive policy recommendations, was presented to the Attorney General in the fall of 2012. These recommendations will become the blueprint for preventing children’s exposure to violence and for reducing the negative effects experienced by children exposed to violence across the United States.
Stick with us throughout the month of July as we take a closer look at some of these recommendations, what is being done and what you can do to help.
July 11 – Defending Childhood Recommendations: Identification