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March | April 2012

Task Force Holds Final Hearings on Children's Exposure to Violence

Defending Childhood logo.To identify promising practices, programming, and community strategies to prevent and respond to children's exposure to violence, Attorney General Eric Holder's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence held the final two of four public hearings in Miami, FL, on March 20–21, 2012, and in Detroit, MI, on April 23–24, 2012.

According to the OJJDP-sponsored 2008 National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), nearly one-half of children and adolescents were assaulted at least once in the past year, and more than 1 in 10 were injured in an assault. Older adolescents ages 14 to 17 were the most likely to experience more serious forms of violence, including assaults with injury, gang assaults, sexual victimizations, physical and emotional abuse, and to witness violence in the community. For more information on NatSCEV, read the sidebar "National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence."

Photo of panel discussion at public hearing in Miami, FL, held by the National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.
A panel discussion on the first day of the Miami hearing focused on the physical and psychological effects of children's exposure to violence in communities with high rates of poverty and violence. Panelists included (from l. to r.) Dawn Brown, Executive Director of Girls and Gangs; Sarah Greene, Program Administrator of Criminal Justice Partnerships, Mecklenburg County, NC; Major Eddie Levins, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, NC; and Roy Martin, Program Manager, Partnership Advancing Communities Together, Boston Health Commission.

At the March hearing, held at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center, task force co-chairs Joe Torre, chairman of the board of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, and Robert Listenbee, Jr., chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and other task force members heard from professionals and community members about promising practices for addressing high rates of violence against youth in their communities. Joe Torre's op-ed about his own childhood experiences with domestic violence and the need to address this problem nationwide was published on March 15, 2012, in The Miami Herald.

Panelists at the hearing included Dwight Jones, Mayor of Richmond, VA; Mark Luttrell, Jr., Mayor of Shelby County, TN; Roy Martin, Senior Youth Development Specialist, Youth Development Network (Boston Public Health Commission); Dawn Brown, Executive Director, Girls and Gangs; Carolyn Reyes, Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Services for Children; and Lyn Tan, Program Director, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.

On April 19, 2012, in advance of the final public hearing in Detroit, an op-ed by task force co-chair Robert Listenbee, Jr. was published in the Detroit Free Press. The op-ed describes Listenbee's experiences of violence as a youth growing up in the Detroit area, and the need for individuals, communities, organizations, businesses, and governments to work together to prevent and reduce children's exposure to violence.

At the Detroit hearing, held in Wayne State University's Bernath Auditorium, experts in the field of children's exposure to violence discussed ongoing efforts to keep kids safe and prevent youth violence and underscored the benefit of investing in prevention and early identification and intervention activities.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, and Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett delivered opening remarks.

Acting Associate Attorney General West announced the release of a new OJJDP research bulletin, Child and Youth Victimization Known to Police, School, and Medical Authorities, which features findings from the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence. According to the survey, 46 percent of children who had been victimized were known to police, school, or medical authorities. The study shows that a considerable portion of childhood exposure to victimization is still unknown to authorities.

"While more children are reporting violence to authorities, at rates higher than they did 20 years ago, too many continue to endure the pain of victimization in silence," West said.

In panel discussions that followed, topics included successful public-private partnerships, model programs to address children's exposure to violence, the importance of youth involvement, and changing social norms about and systems response to violence. Witnesses included Ralph L. Godbee, Jr., Chief, Police Department, City of Detroit; Lawnya Sherrod, founder of Glimpse of Hope and Youth Voice; Tadarial Sturdivant, Director of Wayne County Child and Family Services; Vincent Schiraldi, Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation; Hector Sànchez-Flores, Executive Director, National Compadres Network; Pamela Shifman, Director, Initiatives for Girls and Women, NoVo Foundation; and Dr. William Bell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Casey Family Programs.

The National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence will issue a final report to the Attorney General in late 2012 that will present policy recommendations and serve as a blueprint for preventing and reducing the negative effects of such violence cross the country.

Videos of the task force hearings are available on the National Council on Crime and Delinquency's (NCCD's) Web site. NCCD is the technical assistance provider to the National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. More information about Attorney General Holder's Defending Childhood initiative, the National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, and Defending Childhood's new Web page Take Action To Protect Children is available on the U.S. Department of Justice Web site. An overview of the NatSCEV research may be found on the OJJDP Web site.

Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West's blog about the new OJJDP publication Child and Youth Victimization Known to Police, School, and Medical Authorities is available on the U.S. Department of Justice Web site.