Children who experience and witness violence are robbed of their childhoods and bear physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime. We know that youth who have been exposed to violence are more likely to develop substance use disorders; have depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic disorders; fail or have difficulty in school; and become delinquent and engage in criminal behavior. Exposure to violence during childhood is significantly correlated with adverse health, educational, and social outcomes later in life, such as mental illness, poverty, and involvement in the justice system.
The tragedy of a child’s experience with violence is hardly an isolated one. Recently, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) published findings from the second wave of the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, conducted in 2011, which found that nearly three in five children (57.7 percent) in the United States had been exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in the previous year. Approximately two in five children (41.2 percent) in the survey had been the victims of at least one assault in the prior year, while nearly seven in ten youth in the survey (69.7 percent) said they had been assaulted at least once in their lifetimes.1