Children exposed to Community Violence

The headlines out of Chicago for the past few months have painted a picture of a community full of children living with violence.

July 11: Gun Violence Leaves 4 More Chicago Youth Wounded

June 25: Chicago Shootings: Tyquan Tyler, 13-Year-Old, Among 4 Killed, Dozens Hurt Over Weekend

April 2: Mayor Attends Youth Violence Summit After Bloody Chicago Weekend

Many children and adults have been physically injured – and even killed – in the shootings and many, many more have been exposed to the violence.

The National Survey on Childhood Exposure to Violence found 42.2 percent of teenagers had been exposed to community violence in their lifetime. Community violence can include gang violence, other assaults outside the home and bullying.

As with all exposure to violence, directly or indirectly witnessing community violence can harm children. Other than physical injury, the trauma can lead to behavioral changes and hinder emotional and cognitive development.

While Chicago’s numbers are staggering – more than 200 killed so far this year – community violence can happen anywhere. It is critical that we join efforts to expand children’s ability to cope after experiencing a traumatic event.

Making sure any child has a reliable, understanding adult in their lives and the systems (for example, schools, churches, libraries)  to help them through the trauma of exposure and building their resilience can limit the negative impacts associated with exposure to violence.  More details on how to do that and exactly how exposure can impact a child are discussed in our issue brief Understanding Children’s Exposure to Violence.

Numerous organizations have missions and resources to reduce the prevalence and decrease the negative impacts of exposure to community violence.

Chicago Safe Start is one of the first grantees working to find practices and programs to treat and prevent childhood exposure to violence. Originally funded in 2000, the program continues to provide resources to the community on youth violence prevention.

Have you seen The Interrupters? It’s a documentary following CeaseFire, violence interrupters working with gang members in Chicago to quell the violence. The unique group uses former gang members to work in the streets with youth.

On the federal level, The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention is collaboration between six cities around the country and the federal government, focused on reducing youth violence – particularly gang violence.

Join us next week and on Facebook, when we take a closer look at gang violence and the impact on children.

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