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Blog Post

Children's Exposure to Violence: A National Survey

The following post appears courtesy of Jeff Slowikowski, the Acting Administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Yesterday, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released The National Survey on Children’s Exposure to Violence. The report is a precedent-setting survey because it gives us the first real estimates—as the most comprehensive survey to date-- on the nature and extent of violence in children’s lives. It is the first time data has been collected across all age ranges, and all types of violence, to define the full scope of violence-related experiences in a child’s life --whether it be as victims or witnesses, and whether it be in the home, the school or the community. This is also the first time data has been collected on the cumulative exposure to violence over a child’s lifetime. With this comprehensive survey, we now have learned that more than 60 percent of the children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly or indirectly. Nearly one-half of the children and adolescents surveyed were assaulted at least once in the past year, and more than 1 in 10 were injured as a result. Respondents also reported they were the victim of a robbery, vandalism, or theft. Some said they were victims of child maltreatment, including physical and emotional abuse, neglect, or a family abduction. 1 in 16 were victimized sexually. As Attorney General Holder said yesterday in Chicago, these figures are staggering. The violence that millions of children and youth are exposed to in their homes, schools and communities, whether as direct victims or as a witness, can disrupt their development in many ways. This disruption in development comes from the impact of the stress or trauma on the child. It can be exhibited in how they think, interact, learn and develop relationships. Each child responds to exposure to violence differently and many children are resilient. Others need support to address trauma reactions to prevent further adverse reactions. That’s why we in the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention support initiatives like Safe Start to prevent and reduce the impacts of children’s exposure to violence. It is our mission to protect our youth and reduce children’s exposure to violence. At OJJDP we will continue to support the training necessary to reach across disciplines to identify children who are at risk of exposure to violence, such as witnessing domestic violence, and to coordinate the delivery of services to these children. Accurate information is a key ingredient to helping us accomplish our mission. Because the survey tracked children’s lifetime exposure to violence, researchers can develop more accurate estimates on the total number of children in a certain age group who have been exposed to a particular form of violence. It illustrates more clearly the full extent of exposure and the cumulative effects of multiple exposures to violence and how exposure to one form of violence may make a child more vulnerable to other forms of violence. Armed with these facts we will also work with those who come into daily contact with youth and children to assess and identify those who are suffering emotionally, socially, physically and developmentally from exposure to violence. We can better coordinate our outreach to those children and families who need our help, and provide them with the support they need. This study gives us the tools to better protect juveniles and youth from the effects of violence and guide them into healthy and productive lives. For more information visit the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Updated April 7, 2017