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National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence Holds First Public Hearing

Defending ChildhoodThe Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence held its first public hearing on November 29 and 30, 2011, at the University of Maryland's Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore. The hearing—one of four to be held around the country in the coming year—featured testimony from practitioners, policymakers, academics, and community members about the problem of children's exposure to violence in the United States. A major goal of the hearing was to identify promising practices, programming, and community strategies. Following the four hearings, the task force will issue a report to the Attorney General that will serve as a blueprint for addressing children's exposure to violence across the United States.

"If history is any indicator, task forces like this one can help to inspire extraordinary progress," Attorney General Holder said in his opening remarks. He cited the creation in 1984 of the Attorney General's Task Force on Family Violence. The task force's recommendations became the core principles of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. "Today, with the Defending Childhood Task Force, this tradition continues. I am confident that its members will strengthen the work that's underway to raise awareness about the issue of children exposed to violence—and that they'll play a critically important role in informing responses to this national epidemic."

Recent OJJDP-sponsored research shows that more than 60 percent of American children have been exposed to crime, abuse and violence—many in their own homes. Ten percent of children in the United States have suffered some form of abuse or neglect and 1 in 16 has been victimized sexually.

As part of the Attorney General's Defending Childhood initiative, the task force's charge is to bring national awareness to the issue of children's exposure to violence, increase the scientific knowledge base about the problem and related issues, and gain insights into potential policies that may be developed and recommended to the Attorney General for preventing, responding to, and mitigating the effects of exposure to violence.

The task force, which was officially launched at OJJDP's National Conference for Children's Justice and Safety in mid-October, is composed of 13 leading experts from diverse fields and perspectives, including practitioners, child and family advocates, academic experts, and licensed clinicians.

The task force is co-chaired by Robert Listenbee, J.D., Chief, Juvenile Unit Defender Association of Philadelphia; and Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations and Chairman of the Board of the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, an organization that educates students, parents, and teachers about the effects of domestic violence.

Speakers at the hearing included Sonja Sohn, founder and CEO of ReWired for Change and star of HBO's "The Wire"; Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Nigel Cox, chair of the SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) National Advisory Board; Marshall T. Goodwin, Chief of Police for Baltimore City Schools; Dr. David Finkelhor, a leading researcher in the area of children's exposure to violence; and Baltimore area residents who have experienced family, community, and other types of violence.

Future hearings will take place in 2012 in Albuquerque, NM (January 31–February 1), Miami, FL (March 20–21), and Detroit, MI (April 24–25). Details on these hearings will be available on the Defending Childhood Web site.

Available Online: Findings of the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence

The National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), sponsored by OJJDP and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides the most comprehensive information available on the incidence and prevalence of children's exposure to violence.

NatSCEV is the first attempt to measure children's exposure to all types of violence in the home, school, and community across age groups from birth to age 17 and the first attempt to measure the cumulative exposure to violence over a child's lifetime. The reports of lifetime exposure indicate how certain types of exposure change and accumulate as a child grows up.

In interviews conducted by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center between January and May 2008, researchers gathered data on both past-year and lifetime exposure to violence across a number of categories, including physical assault, bullying, sexual victimization, child maltreatment, dating violence, and witnessed and indirect victimization.

OJJDP is producing a series of bulletins to highlight the findings from NatSCEV. The following publications have been released and are available online:

In the coming months, OJJDP will release two more bulletins in the NatSCEV series—one on child and youth victimization known to police and other authorities; and the other on victimization and delinquency in a national sample of youth.


Information about the Attorney General's Defending Childhood initiative is available online. For more information about the National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, visit the U.S. Department of Justice Web site.