More than 60 percent of children surveyed were exposed to violence, crime, or abuse within the past year, either directly (as victims) or indirectly (as witnesses)—many in their own homes. Repeated exposure to trauma and violence can disrupt brain development and increase the risk of serious illness, psychological issues, and dangerous behavior later in life.
In 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder launched the groundbreaking 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.
On October 19th, 2016, Futures Without Violence in partnership with Ad Council and the Department of Justice launched a national public education campaign, Changing Minds at an event at the White House. The goal is to raise awareness about the impact of childhood trauma and motivate adults who regularly interact with children to take meaningful action in helping them. The new campaign is a direct marketing and digital-first campaign, with materials intended to drive the target audience—adults who regularly interact with children—to the Changing Minds website in order to learn how to help children who’ve witnessed violence and understand the science behind child traumatic stress.
The Changing Minds website teaches about the science of childhood trauma and five everyday gestures to help kids heal and thrive. Two videos highlight the impact of mentors on Chad and Unique who have experienced childhood trauma and another explains the science behind childhood trauma. Resources are provided so providers can take action today.
Building on programs such as Safe Start, the Child Development-Community Policing Program, and 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.
The eight grantee communities of the Defending Childhood Initiative include: