Georgina Mendoza: Exposure to violence harms children

Salinas Community Safety Director and CASP Director Georgina MendozaFrom the Salinas Californian: We’re all horrified at the thought of children suffering violence directly. But what many of us don’t realize is that simply being exposed to violence can harm a child for life — and impose huge costs on the community.

According to a recently released report, childhood exposure to violence, or CEV, is a national crisis, affecting about two out of every three American children.

The report follows a year of work by the US Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, co-chaired by baseball great Joe Torre and Justice Department administrator Robert Listenbee Jr.

Among the members of that task force was Georgina Mendoza, Community Safety Director for the City of Salinas. In the following interview, Mendoza describes the urgent need to address CEV both nationally and locally.

QUESTION: What are some of the effects of Childhood Exposure to Violence?

ANSWER: A child can be exposed directly to violence or indirectly, such as witnessing domestic violence or witnessing crime in their streets and neighborhoods. Exposure to such violence puts children at risk for lifelong problems such as depression, eating disorders and deviant sexual behavior, as well as having the potential to derail a child’s security, health, happiness and ability to grow and learn. Even children as young as six months old start feeling the effects of trauma, which oftentimes is carried throughout adulthood.

Q: What kinds of violence are we talking about?

A: Every kind: physical and sexual abuse, emotional and psychological as well as community violence. This last form of violence isn’t normally listed as a source of children’s exposure to violence, but as many of us in Salinas can attest, such violence absolutely can stay with a child and create its own trauma.

Salinas Californian
News Item Publication Date: 
Saturday, May 25, 2013