Sexual abuse is one type of violence that children may experience; however, it is only one form of violence to which children may be exposed. Exposure to violence is a national crisis that affects approximately two out of every three of our children. Unfortunately, both direct and indirect exposure to violence has serious consequences on mental and emotional development.
Teachers and parents can benefit from learning more about these effects, as well as what interventions can assist in helping children develop to their full potential. The United States Department of Justice has developed the following resources for educators and caregivers.
What can teachers do?
Teachers can play a critical role in preventing and reducing the impact of exposure to violence on children. They can help children by creating a predictable environment, listening to students’ stories, and assuring children and adolescents that whatever happened was not their fault. Specific ways to help children exposed to violence include knowing and watching for signs of possible exposure to violence. No single behavior proves that a child has been exposed to violence, but teachers can watch for:
- Physical signs such as bruises;
- Unexplained changes in behavior; and
- Emotional signs such as depression, mood swings, and fearful or anxious behavior.
What can parents do?
The best way to help children is to make sure that they feel safe (for example, creating a predictable environment, encouraging them to express their feelings by listening and hearing their stories) and ensuring that they know that the violence they witnessed or experienced was not their fault. Ways you can help children cope with the impact of exposure to violence include:
- Remaining calm and reinforcing a stable and safe environment;
- Keeping a regular schedule or routine for meals, quiet time, playtime, and bedtime;
- Helping children prepare for changes and new experiences;
- Spending more time together as a family;
- Being patient and letting children identify and express feelings; and
- Providing extra attention, comfort, and encouragement.
AG’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence
The Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence has released their final report and recommendations.