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   Trauma's Impact on Children Exposed to Violence

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) published findings from the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence conducted in 2011, which found that nearly 60 percent of children and youth were exposed to violence, crime or abuse in the past year.

Exposure to violence can limit children's potential and increase their likelihood of becoming involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system. These children are often more likely to develop a substance use disorder; suffer from depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder; and fail to thrive in school, according to the OJJDP-sponsored National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV II) conducted in 2011.

OJJDP's research in 2008 was the first nationwide attempt to measure children's exposure to violence in the home, school and community across all age groups from 1 month to age 17 in its first National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence I (NatSCEV I).

Raising Awareness About Childhood Trauma

Raising Awareness About Childhood TraumaThe Justice Department launched Changing Minds in October 2016, a national campaign that seeks to raise awareness, teach skills, and inspire public action to address children's exposure to violence and the resulting trauma. OJJDP developed Changing Minds in collaboration with Futures Without Violence, a national health and social justice nonprofit organization; the Ad Council; and Wunderman, the advertising agency.

Changing Minds aims to:

  • Raise awareness about the prevalence, urgency, and impact of children's exposure to violence and the trauma that may result.
  • Change perceptions of adults who interact with children from viewing them as "angry, bad, and withdrawn" to recognizing that they are children who "have been hurt and need our help."
  • Engage and change practices in schools, homes, and communities.
  • Motivate adults who interact with children in schools, communities, and health settings to be caring, concerned, and supportive figures in the lives of our children.

One of the biggest predictors of children's ability to be resilient in the face of trauma is having loving and caring adults in their lives. Studies show that adults who provide consistent emotional and physical support can buffer the "fight or flight" stress response in children.

The Changing Minds public awareness campaign was launched as part of the Defending Childhood Initiative.

Enhancing Law Enforcement Response

The OJJDP-funded Enhancing Police Responses to Children Exposed to Violence: A Toolkit for Law Enforcement launched in May 2017. The toolkit provides law enforcement professionals with resources to effectively respond to children who have been exposed to violence.

The toolkit was created as part of a cooperative agreement among the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Yale Child Study Center and OJJDP.

Focus on Children's Exposure to Violence

Defending Childhood InitiativeIn 2010, then-Attorney General Eric Holder launched the Defending Childhood Initiative to address a national crisis: the exposure of America's children to violence as victims and as witnesses. The program, which currently operates in eight sites throughout the country, has developed strategic plans for comprehensive community-based efforts that will further demonstrate the goals of this initiative.

Building on programs such as the Greenbook Initiative, Defending Childhood leverages existing resources across the Department of Justice to focus on preventing, addressing, reducing, and more fully understanding childhood exposure to violence.

Over the years, the Defending Childhood Initiative has built local capacity by supporting 600 professional trainings, 723 awareness events and 538 publications and advertisements. Also see the Defending Childhood Initiative page on the Department of Justice website

Additional Resources

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
This section of the OJJDP website features programs, policy guidance, OJJDP-sponsored reports, and OJJDP-funded efforts to combat the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

Through Our Eyes: Children, Violence, and Trauma
This Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) web resource presents a video series and related materials that discuss how crime, abuse, violence, and trauma affect children.

Report of the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence (December 2012)
The Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, which was part of former Attorney General Eric Holder's Defending Childhood Initiative, issued a final report on findings and its comprehensive policy recommendations.

Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence (November 2014)
This task force of U.S. Attorneys and officials from the Departments of the Interior and Justice and an advisory committee of experts was appointed to examine the scope and impact of violence facing American Indian and Alaska Native children and make policy recommendations on ways to address it. This is their final report and recommendations.


National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence Series (2009-2015)
Read OJJDP-Produced fact sheets, bulletins, reports on research and survey results from the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) series.

Children's Exposure to Violence, Crime, and Abuse: An Update (September 2015)
This bulletin discusses the second National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV II), which was conducted in 2011 as a follow up to the original NatSCEV I survey conducted in 2008.

Compendium of Research on Children's Exposure to Violence 2010-2015 (June 2016)
This resource from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) provides abstracts for NIJ-funded research related to youth exposure to violence.

The Facts on Children's Exposure to Violence (December 2015)
Developed as part of the Defending Childhood Initiative, this OJJDP-sponsored fact sheet provides statistics that detail the prevalence of children's exposure to violence in their homes, schools and communities.

National Profile of Children Exposed to Family Violence, Family Response and Individual Impact (January 2015)
This NIJ-sponsored report by the Crimes Against Children Research Center provides the first nationally representative data on youth contact with law enforcement and victim services for cases of family violence involving exposure to children.

Polyvictimization: Children's Exposure to Multiple Types of Violence, Crime and Abuse (October 2011)
This OJJDP-produced bulletin presents the findings of the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) regarding children's direct exposure to multiple types of violence, crime, and abuse, also known as polyvictimization.

Stay Informed

Stay Connected with OJJDPStay Connected with OJJDP to keep informed about issues, research, reports and programs on children exposed to violence and trauma, subscribe to OJJDP's bimonthly electronic newsletter OJJDP News @ a Glance and the JUVJUST listserv, or follow OJJDP on Twitter or Facebook.

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