Addressing the Secondary Effects of Violence

October 13, 2014

The direct physical effects of violence are as obvious as they are devastating. But what about after the physical wounds have healed? And what about those who aren’t physically attacked but are absolutely affected—including physically—by living with violence every day?

A recent MSNBC report tells the story of the secondary victims of violence, namely the residents of at-risk neighborhoods who are left traumatized by constant exposure to violence.

Much like those in actual war zones, residents of neighborhoods where violence is endemic experience a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition to the anxiety, feelings of isolation and depression, and the sleeplessness associated with PTSD, continuous exposure to violence can alter a person’s brain, causing overproduction of stress hormones that can cause a whole host of problems. Even worse, young people whose brains are still developing are particularly at risk.

Studies have also shown that simply being friends with someone who has been a victim of violence increases a person’s risk of becoming a direct victim. Just seeing violence, being around it day-in and day-out, also increases a person’s likelihood of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

Simply put, just being around violence is seriously damaging to a person’s mental and physical health. And many young people don’t have any way to escape this reality.

So what can we do? Relying on law enforcement to deal with violence isn’t enough—there has to be a community-based response to help address the many different factors that are leading young people to violence, including lack of jobs and education. A solid, sustained community-based response also helps the community cope with the aftereffects of violence.

tCI programs are working to create a holistic, community-based response to violence. They build personal connections and get kids engaged before they turn to violence. Our programs work with young people who are most at risk to help them get their lives on track, in part by providing a safe space to talk about their experiences with violence and other challenges. tCI programs are designed and run by program staff, including Claretians, who live in the communities they serve, making them a trusted resource for people who sometimes feel they have nowhere else to turn.

Learn more about how tCI is impacting at-risk communities by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and signing up for our monthly email. Please help us spread the word. Working together we can help those living with violence connect with the resources they need to thrive.

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