Trayvon Martin and Community Violence

Much has been said about the Trayvon Martin case in central Florida this past month. Much more could be said and even more will probably never be known for sure. What we do know is that Trayvon was walking home from a nearby store when he was approached by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Accounts vary as to what happened next, but the outcome left Martin dead from a gunshot wound.

However, what isn’t being talked about so much is the environment where this tragic incident played out.

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Teen Dating Violence: An Overview of Boys and Girls

Teen Dating Violence (TDV)

We opened the month in support of Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and this week we’d like to talk more about how teen dating violence affects girls and boys. Because “among adolescents aged 12 to 21, almost 3 in 10 have experienced violence in opposite-sex relationships,” and according to Womenshealth.gov “in the United States, teens and young women experience the highest rates of relationship violence. In fact, 1 in 10 female high-schoolers say they have been physically abused by a dating partner in the past year.”

The Cycle of Violence

Although teen dating violence is a problem itself, it is helpful to look at violence as a whole to better understand why, how, and when it happens. One way of looking at the subject of violence is through what is called the “cycle of violence,” which looks at the different phases of abuse. This cycle is about controlling another person within the boundaries of a relationship, and it can be physical, emotional, mental, or even financial.

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Human Trafficking: Global Phenomena. Domestic Concern.

Human Trafficking: Global Phenomena. Domestic Concern.

Over the last several years, the topic of human trafficking – or modern day slavery as many advocates call it – has captured the attention and pulled on the heart strings of the American public. U.S. citizens became indignant as they realized that slavery, something they thought fixed a century ago, was still growing in the world. Since then, countless organizations, advocacy campaigns, and fundraisers have been created to help the victims of global trafficking, especially the women and girls trafficked in our country.

Unfortunately, many people still don’t know that these same horror stories happen in their state, their county, their city. Recent reports cite that American born girls and boys are just as likely to be trafficked domestically as immigrant children. Amy Fine Collin recently wrote a story for Vanity Fair on domestic sex trafficking about two trafficked American girls, Gwen and Alicia, and the police officers, lawyers, social workers, and doctors who helped free them. “A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day—and a “righteous” pimp confiscates 100 percent of her earnings,” Collin writes. This is an American reality, one that unfortunately is targeting younger and younger children.

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The Basics of Mandated Reporting

According to the Children’s Bureau annual Child Maltreatment report more than 700,000 children were reported to be mistreated in fiscal year 2009. Almost 80 percent of those children were neglected while 17 percent were physically abused and 9 percent were sexually abused. (The total equals more than 100 percent because some children experienced multiple abuses.)

Those numbers reflect reports made to child protection services agencies across the country, 52 percent of which were made by educators, law enforcement, social services and medical personnel – people mandated to do so.

Every state and Washington, D.C. has mandated reporting laws that require certain professions who work with children to report suspected child abuse.

Those professionals vary, but usually include teachers, social workers, medical and mental health professionals and child care providers, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

The punishment for failing to report can be as serious as a misdemeanor.

Mandated reporter laws also describe what and where to report concerns.

For example, here in Maryland, “each health practitioner, police officer, educator or human service worker, acting in a professional capacity” are expected to report to law enforcement or child welfare agency if they suspect a child is being abused or neglected. Abuse and neglect are not specifically defined by the law.

But each state’s definitions are based on minimum standards set by federal law. Through the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, child abuse and neglect is defined as:

…any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm…

The National District Attorneys’ Association has a handy list of laws for each state here. Take a look and see if you’re mandated to report, what you should report and who you report to.
Resources:

Child Welfare Information Gateway: Summary of State Laws
http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/manda.cfm

Child Welfare Information Gateway: State Guides and Resources
http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/sgm/index.cfm?&submit=1&topicName=mandatory%20reporting&audiencename=professionals

National District Attorney’s Association: List of Mandated Reporting laws by state
http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/Mandatory%20Reporting%20of%20Child%20Abuse%20and%20Neglect_May%202010.pdf

Children exposed to violence is a global epidemic

Tanzania report reveals extent of violence against children

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/aug/09/tanzania-violence-against-children

This post from the UK Guardian Poverty Matters Blog, discusses a new breakthrough study conducted in Tanzania and put out by the Muhimbili University in Dar es Salaam and the CDC. Study findings note that close to 75% of all children had been exposed to some type of violence before reaching adulthood. In addition, the researchers note that reports show that violence exposure in childhood can cause numerous social and emotional problems for the rest of the child’s development.

The outcomes of the Tanzanian study also parallel the findings of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NATSCEV) and The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study which also reiterate that children coming into contact with violence and trauma may experience long-term detrimental  effects, sometimes in spite of their natural resilience. The NATSCEV in particular notes that, “All too often, however, children who are exposed to violence undergo lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm. They suffer from difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and aggression and conduct problems. They may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization, and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems” (NATSCEV 2).

Finally, several nations are working to address children’s exposure to violence through studies and legislation. In early 2008, Swaziland was the first African country to conduct a survey of the level of violence exposure of women and children. More recently, in June 2011, in Australia a study was released reiterating that the idea, that children exposed to domestic violence are experiencing a form of child abuse, is becoming a more widely accepted thought. Also, early this month Tanzania committed itself to strengthening laws against violence exposure.

Witnessing or directly experiencing violence, especially children, is becoming a widely recognized problem on the international level. Cultural and emotional barriers exist all over the world which inhibit the recognition and treatment of the effects of this exposure, particularly the mental and emotional health of the survivor. This new study demonstrates the ongoing breakdown of the taboos that surround discussion and treatment of this issue. Such progress is the first step in increasing awareness and supporting prevention, and creating a more trauma-informed global society.

Other Related Studies and Links:

Safe Start Center

Research Studies and Reports

http://www.safestartcenter.org/research/research-studies-reports.php

UNICEF United Republic of Tanzania

http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/tanzania.html

 Violence Against Children: United Nations Secretary-General’s Study

http://www.unviolencestudy.org/

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Violence Against Children and Young Women in Swaziland

A Brief from UNICEF Swaziland

http://www.unicef.org/swaziland/sz_media_Ten_Things_2.pdf

 

 

Update!

Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children Praises Tanzania’s work pioneering work in data and research on violence against children!

http://srsg.violenceagainstchildren.org/story/2011-09-20_384

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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