Children Exposed to Violence and Gun Violence

IF YOU THINK A CHILD IS IN DANGER, CALL OR TEXT 911 IMMEDIATELY

The Children Exposed to Violence initiative within the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney is the first of its kind in the nation. A trauma-informed agency that supports children from the time a violent crime is committed through the criminal justice process, this vital unit is dedicated to reducing the impacts of violence inflicted on children.

 

 

The exposure of children to violence is a national epidemic that affects an estimated 46- million children in the United States. No matter where the violence occurs, at home, school, or in the neighborhood, exposure to violence is a uniquely traumatic experience for children with consequences that can last a lifetime.

 

Recognizing this troublesome reality, prosecutors within the Children Exposed to Violence initiative are devoted to ensuring the safety and well-being of children.

Children Exposed to Gun Violence

When gun violence occurs in a community, children are often witnesses to the event and its aftermath. The impact of gun violence exposure is associated with learning, health, emotional and behavioral issues immediately following the event and also later in life. 

Our REACH TEAM, in partnership with the renowned Children's Institute, LAPD Southeast and local nonprofit organizations, aims to ensure that children and families exposed to gun violence in LAPD's Southeast Division and parts of LAPD's 77th Division (and growing to cover all of South Los Angeles by 2022) receive appropriate and timely crisis intervention and support services.

City Attorney Mike Feuer: "Children deserve safe and secure childhoods, and when violence erupts into their lives, we have to step in and act, and that’s just what we are going to do."

Read more about the health crisis of children exposed to gun violence in City Attorney Mike Feuer's Op-Ed in the Sacramento Bee: "Mental health services vital to heal children traumatized by violence."

Common Types of Violence to Which Children are Exposed

Prenatal Exposure to Violence:

  • Violence experienced by the Mother is also experienced by the unborn child.

  • Screaming, yelling or extremely loud noises are experienced by the unborn child as distress.

 

Exposure to Violence in Infancy:

  • Assault by a sibling

  • Loud/Violent Arguments between parents.

  • Violence against the primary caregiver.

  • Neglect/Physical/Sexual abuse.

 

Exposure to Violence in Young Children (Ages 2‐5), Middle‐Age Children (Ages 6‐10):

  • Bullying/Assaults by peers or others with or without a weapon.

  • Sexual Abuse/Assault

  • Sexual Harassment

  • Witnessing Community and/or Family Violence.

 

Exposure to Violence in Pre‐Teens (Ages 11 to 13) and Adolescence (Ages 14 to 17):

  • All psychological & emotional abuse

  • Bullying/Assaults by Peers with or without a weapon.

  • Dating Violence

  • Gang Violence

  • Sexual Assault / Harassment

  • Unwanted Online Sexual Solicitation or Exploitation.

  • Witnessing Community and/or Family Violence.

What Should I do When I Know My Child Has Been Exposed to Violence or Trauma?

The first thing to consider is the safety of the child. Is the child in a safe place? If not, make sure to get the child to a safe place, if possible. Once the child is safe, it is good to talk to the child about what happened. Talking to children about violence is never easy.


Adults tend to avoid talking to children for the following reasons:

  • It is over now. Why talk about it?

  • It might make things worse.

  • I do not know what to say.

  • I am scared to bring it up

  • I have tried, but my child does not want to talk about it.


It is normal to have these thoughts, but talking is the first step toward healing. You may feel uncomfortable, but here are some ways to get started:

  • Take a deep breath.

  • Talk to someone you trust and who can help you gather your thoughts.

  • Plan what you want to say to your child.

Additional Resources

Children’s Institute

Main Number: (213) 385-5100

Website for Children's Institute  

WellNest

Main Number: (323) 766-2345

Website for WellNest

Violence Intervention Program

Main Number: (323) 221-4134

Website for Violence Intervention Program

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Main Number: (800) 799-7923 (SAFE), (800) 787-3224 TTY

Website for the National Domestic Violence Hotline

Peace Over Violence

Main Number: (626) 793-3385

Website for Peace Over Violence 

Reducing the Cause & Effect of Children Exposed to Violence (Brochure)

Children Exposed to Violence. A Trauma-Informed Response for Prosecutors (White Paper)

List of Helpful Children's Publications (PDF)

Sesame Street: "Breathe with Elmo and Common" (YouTube video)

California Attorney General: "Exposure to Violence and a Child's Develping Brain" (YouTube video)

Office for Victims of Crime: "Through Our Eyes. Children, Violence and Trauma" (YouTube video)

​Office for Victims of Crime: "Addressing Violence in the Home" (YouTube video)

Domestic Violence from a Child's View: "Monsters in the Closet" (YouTube video)