By Erin Feeley, Youth and Prevention Lead
The impacts of domestic and sexual violence on children and youth are often overlooked.
As adults, we try to shield young people from violence or we assume that children are too young to understand the violence they witnessed or experienced. The reality is that the impacts of violence on young people are significant and pervasive. A comprehensive national study of children’s exposure to violence found that children are more likely to be exposed to violence and crime than adults and more than 25 percent are exposed to domestic violence in their lifetimes.1 For children and youth, the stress caused by repeated exposure to violence can interrupt healthy psychological, physical, and social-emotional development2 which can lead to a variety of negative short and long-term outcomes, including physical and mental health issues, reduced ability to succeed in school, and increased likelihood of future exposure to violence.3
However, emerging research on childhood traumatic stress indicates that many of the negative outcomes associated with childhood exposure to violence can be prevented or even reversed by timely, trauma-informed services4 and stable, supportive relationships with adults.5 Several studies examining the impact of domestic violence services have found that when children and their caregivers receive adequate support, about half of those children showed no evidence of PTSD and demonstrate resilience in their ability to cope and function.6 This is promising and hopeful research which speaks to the possibilities of interrupting intergenerational cycles of violence.
At Turning Pointe, our services for children and youth have expanded over the past year.
In 2020, we served 37 youth, and we are on track to serve even more young people in 2021. Our youth services focus on connecting young people to educational, medical and mental health resources, offering social and emotional learning and prevention education, and creating opportunities for young people to form healthy relationships with family members, peers, and other positive adults. We also work to support young people by helping their parents and caregivers. We share information about the impact of children’s exposure to violence and trauma-informed approaches to working with children.
Additionally, in partnerships with Family Education & Support Services, we offer a parenting class called Understanding Resiliency which provides caregivers with a space to share their knowledge, problem-solve their struggles, and learn new parenting strategies.
In the coming years, we hope to continue to grow our services for young people through expanded programming and partnerships with other youth and family-serving organizations.
1) U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. 2020. “Children Exposed to Violence.” Retrieved from: https://www.ojp.gov/program/programs/cev
2) Listenbee, Robert L. Jr. et al. 2012. “Report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.” Defending Childhood Initiative.
3) Futures without Violence. N.d. “The Facts on Children’s Exposure to Violence.” Defending Childhood Initiative. Retrieved from: http://fwvcorp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/20160224123956/DCI-Fact-Sheet.pdf
4) Listenbee, Robert L. Jr. et al. 2012. “Report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.” Defending Childhood Initiative.
5) Futures without violence. N.d. “Changing Minds: The Campaign to End Childhood Trauma.” Retrieved from: https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/children-youth-teens/changing-minds-the-campaign-to-end-childhood-trauma/
6) Lyon, Eleanor & Menard, Anne. 2016. “Building Promising Futures: Guidelines for Enhancing Response of Domestic Violence Programs to Children & Youth.” Family & Youth Service Bureau.