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You are here: Home / Newsroom / News Stories / ARCHIVED News Stories / ARCHIVED: 2014 News Stories / National Crime Victims' Rights Week - Day 3

National Crime Victims' Rights Week - Day 3

by Kimberly_Marotta — last modified Jul 07, 2015 02:26 PM
More than half of America’s children and teens are in some way exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and neighbor­hoods every year, according to a 2009 U.S. Department of Justice study.

Far too many youth are victims of violence themselves, while others will witness violent crimes or share the trauma when their families, friends and classmates, or neighborhoods are targets of violence and abuse. Unfortunately, many of these young people will experience violence from multiple sources, compounding the trauma and its effects.

The consequences of this kind of exposure can be difficult to measure, but the harm is real.

We know that children and teens exposed to violence are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. They are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. They are more likely to fail school, be absent from school, and experience learning difficulties. These children are more likely to enter into, and stay in, abusive relationships. Finally, they are at a greater risk of going on to commit crimes themselves.

This cycle of violence and harm has ripple effects throughout our communities. Children exposed to violence develop an insecure view of the world around them. They often feel unsafe. When they encounter future problems, they may not trust that their parents, teachers, or police can protect or help them.

Our understanding of the effect of violence on children and teens is growing. With this knowledge, we need to raise awareness of the consequences of children growing up in fear, and develop networks of services and interventions aimed at promoting safe communities.

At-risk families need access to counseling and support services to help them support their children and break the cycle of violence and fear. It is critical for communities to also actively support teachers, law enforcement, and victim service providers with the funding and training they need to support and protect children in their daily work.

As a community we must take care of our children. Supporting the National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD) and encouraging people in our lives to report suspected abuse of children are two ways to decrease childhood violence.

Another good place to start for all of us is by listening to young people and being engaged in their lives. We can be watchful of the common warning signs of a child affected by crime — such as changes in sleeping and eating habits, withdrawing from friends or adults, school absenteeism, and unexplained fearfulness.

Children need to know that the violence they have experienced is not their fault. They need to stay connected with safe environments provided by schools, sporting groups, and afterschool pursuits — places we should ensure are free of violence and fear.

This week (April 6-12) is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a time when communities come together with vigils and events in support of victims of crime.

It is time to forge a new commitment to protecting children and reducing their exposure to violence of all kinds. The consequences of not addressing the violence children experience are serious; but the rewards—happy, secure youth and safe, thriving communities—are enormous and long-lasting.

If you’re interested in learning more about the effects of violence on children, the U.S. Department of Justice has produced a video series Through Our Eyes: Children, Violence, and Trauma, available at The Department of Justice also has launched the Defending Childhood Initiative to address the exposure of America’s children to violence as victims and as witnesses. For more information on this initiative, visit

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