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The Problem

Child Abuse

The majority of fatal injuries to children and youth in Chicago are the result of intentional injuries, accounting for 19 deaths per 100,000 youth annually (Children’s Memorial Research Center, 2005). For every child death, there were about 9 youth hospitalized for serious injuries in 2001. Statewide in 2004, 104,248 reports of child abuse/neglect were made to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, 25,024 of these were substantiated (DCFS, 2005)

Bullying, Harassment, and Teen Dating Violence

Sadly, many of our children’s earliest peer relationships are marked by violence. Bullying is a common feature of every day life. We see it in the workplace, in the home, in daycare, on the sports field, and most commonly of all at school, where children learn as much about how to behave towards others as they do about their lessons in class. Schools may well be the training grounds for domestic violence through the practice of and permission given to the public performance of bullying and sexual harassment.

Increasing Access

The center has a longstanding tradition of involvement with the agencies and institutions providing services and sanctions to the victims and perpetrators of violence, and has been instrumental in bringing these agencies and institutions into the university to help educate our students about violence prevention “on the ground.” The interdisciplinary nature of our center will also greatly increase the links available for individual researchers who have their own community laboratories, but who will now also benefit from the community laboratories of their colleagues.

Intimate Partner Violence

Each year approximately four million women experience physical violence by an intimate partner (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000; Wettersten, 2004). Two million of these women suffer serious injury. Domestic violence impacts women’s physical health and ability to function. Although reports vary significantly, it is estimated that nearly 25% of all women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at some point in their lives. The consequences of abuse are frequently profound, ranging from physical injury and emotional distress to permanent physical and psychiatric disabilities.

Sexual Assault

In addition to domestic violence, sexual assault is a serious public health problem that is endemic to our society. According to the 1995 National Violence Against Women Study, the annual costs of stalking, rape, physical assault, and homicide of women by their intimate partners exceeds 5.8 billion dollars a year (Centers for Disease Control, 2004). Community-based prevalence studies show that 20-25% of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (Basile, 2005) and a large body of evidence shows that many women have lasting psychological and physical health consequences following this crime, including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, chronic health conditions, significant limitations in physical functioning, increased risk of drinking problems, substance abuse problems, eating disorders and suicide attempts (Resick, 1993; Riggs & Foa, 1993; Ullman, 2003a,2003b; Ullman & Brecklin, 2003).

Children Exposed To Violence

In addition to being a direct victim of violence, a growing body of research has shown conclusively that child exposure to violence in the family can lead to life-long and devastating consequences, including physical, emotional, social, academic, and mental health problems (Bell & Jenkins, 1991). Unfortunately, witnessing family violence is common with both child and adult retrospective data showing that 7-13% of children have this experience (Finkelhor, 1991; Straus & Gelles, 1990). Children who live in families with domestic violence or in communities with high rates of violence frequently show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, aggressive behavior, reduced social skills, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and poor academic performance.

Gang and Youth Violence

In 2000, there were an estimated 24,500 active gangs in the United States, with membership exceeding 772,500 (Egley, 2002). Gangs have become a major source of violence in American cities. In Chicago, which the national media labeled the “murder capital of America” in 2001, more than 60 percent of the homicides are gang-related (Rosenbaum & Stephens, 2005). More than half of the nation’s gang members are juveniles under 18, who are headed toward a life of incarceration or early death (Egley, 2002).

 

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