The following post appears courtesy of Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, Mary Lou Leary
Over the last year, the Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence has traveled the country, listening to practitioners, policymakers, academics, concerned citizens, and victims. Its goal was to find out how violence and abuse are affecting our kids and our communities and to explore what actions we can take to prevent children’s exposure to violence and mitigate its effects. The problem is an urgent one, one Attorney General Eric Holder says “we can’t afford to ignore.”
On Wednesday, July 25 the Task Force Co-Chairs went to Congress to report on its progress – to a standing-room only crowd of more than 100 people eager to learn how to stop the national epidemic of children’s exposure to violence.
Task force co-chairs Joe Torre, Yankee legend and executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, and Robert Listenbee, Jr., chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, led the briefing, describing their comprehensive work since the task force launch in October 2011. They discussed many lessons learned through four public hearings in Baltimore, Albuquerque, Miami and Detroit and three listening sessions in Anchorage, Oakland and Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside Tacoma, WA.
The variety of sites gave the task force members the big picture of violence in America. “People think violence is an urban problem, but tribal area statistics are sometimes worse…while rural areas have difficulty getting resources,” noted Co-chair Listenbee. The task force heard personal testimony from 65 people from 27 states and the District of Columbia. These included survivors of violence, young people, social service providers, medical personnel, researchers, practitioners, advocates, tribal and local officials, private foundation representatives, and community residents.
Torre, who established the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation to give children relief from violence in their homes, had everyone’s rapt attention when he described the impact of witnessing abuse as a child:
“It took decades before I finally started to talk about the violence in my childhood,” he said. “And as the task force has heard from one person after another, things haven’t changed enough. Every child deserves a safe home, a safe school, and a safe community….They need our help. And we need their help. Children are a part of the solution. Awareness is a part of the solution. Some people think it’s just a part of society that we can’t do anything about. But we can do something about it. It’s our responsibility to take care of our kids. Even if they don’t have the same last name, they’re our kids.”
The Attorney General often says that children’s exposure to violence is not an issue the Department of Justice – or any one agency or organization – can take on alone. It will take all of us – working together. And with the momentum we’ve generated through our Defending Childhood Initiative, the information and insights we’ve gained through the Task Force, and the tremendous support and leadership shown by everyone here, I know we will find a way to make America safer for our children.
More information on the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative and this task force is available at www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood.