Into The Abyss:
A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs

by Mike Carlie, Ph.D.        
© 2002
Michael K. Carlie
Continually updated.

~ Table of Contents ~
Home | Foreword | Preface | Orientation

What I Learned | Conclusions
End Note |
| Appendix
Site Map / Contents
| New Research

Up-To-Date Gang-Related News

Part 7:
What the Health Care Community Could Do

Healthy families and healthy communities go together. Violence prevention for children is not just an issue of law enforcement - it’s much more. It’s about creating safe places and learning opportunities, ensuring relationships with caring adults in the family and community, and providing a network of supports and services. (Ann Rosewater, Former Counselor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); currently HHS Regional Director, page)

As you may have noticed, I opened this part of the book with a quote which emphasizes the importance of a healthy family life for children and the need for preventing violence. The two go hand in hand and are part and parcel of the answer to what the health care community could do to reduce local gang activity and youth violence. While violence is the presenting problem (what we actually see), the underlying causes for the violence are the concern of mental health professionals. Therapies and programs which seek to remedy the causes of violence are our primary focus here.

This part of Into the Abyss is divided into the following sections:

Click on the topics below or 
continue reading down the page ...

bulletViolence Against Children
bulletViolence Against Women and Mothers
bulletExemplary-, Model-, and Promising Programs
bulletEmergency Rooms Intervention
bulletA Blueprint for Action

Violence Against Children

It is a sad reality that the criminal justice system often does not deal adequately, and in my mind justly, with crimes against children. It is time, way past time, for us to look at children’s exposure to violence as a law enforcement issue as well as a social services issue. (Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General of the United States, site)

Violence against children in the united states is a serious and disturbing social problem. The sheer number of children being abused, beaten, raped, neglected, abandoned, and murdered is alarming.


Recent data show that three or four children die every day from abuse and neglect in the United States.  (Ericson, 2001, page 1.)


Homicide is listed as the fourth leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, third for children ages 5 to 14, and second for children ages 15 to 24 by the National Center for Health Statistics. (The National Center for Victims of Crime, no date, page).


An analysis of National Incident-Based Reporting System data from jurisdictions in twelve states reveals ... juveniles make up 12 percent of all crime victims known to police, including 71 percent of all sex crime victims and 38 percent of all kidnapping victims. (Finkelhor and Ormrod, 2000, page 2)  [Juveniles - children under 17 years of age - were approximately 25.5% of the total population of the United States in the year 2000 {U.S. Bureau of the Census estimate, page}]


Approximately 903,000 children were victims of abuse and/or neglect in 1998 and 1,100 children died as a result of abuse. (North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, page - removed from the Internet as of 7 November 2006) 

Field Note: I spent the day today with several juvenile officers in the police department. While waiting to start our day's activities I listened to several of them as they answered "the normal run of morning telephone calls," as one of them said. 

One of the officers answered the phone and listened to what a mother had to say about how she was disciplining her child. She was upset that her child was not responding appropriately. Then I heard the officer say "Mam, there's a difference between disciplining your child and beating your child!" A few seconds passed and he said "You can't start being a parent to your child when he's 15 years old!"

Violence in our nation's schools is nothing new. "Although violence at and around schools has declined in the 1990s, the numbers of children threatened or injured at school are still shocking:


"201,800 students ages 12 to 18 were victims of serious, violent crimes (such as rape, sexual assault, robbery or aggravated assault) at school or going to and from school in 1997.


"5 percent of all 12th graders reported in 1997 that they had been injured on purpose with a weapon such as a gun, knife or club during the previous year; 14 percent reported that they had been injured on purpose without a weapon." (American Medical Association, 2001)

The consequences of child abuse, whether at home or at school, can be devastating and directly impact our discussion concerning gangs. As Ericson found, "... child abuse victims are more likely to underachieve in school and become involved in juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and adult criminality. According to a report released by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, 'the earliest years of a children life are society's most neglected ... yet new evidence confirms that these years lay the foundation for all that follows.'" (Ericson, 2001, page 1) 

Violence Against Women and Mothers

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation gathers statistics on many crime-related topics. One of them is shown in Table 1 (below). In the United States in 1996, not only were women in intimate relationships assaulted nearly three times as often as their male counterparts, over one in five women in intimate relationships were assaulted. Those statistics are staggering.

Table 1: Estimated percent of persons physically assaulted by intimate partner during lifetime, by type of assault and sex of victim, United States, 1996.

Type of assault

Male Female

Threw something
Pushed, grabbed, shoved
Pulled hair
Slapped, hit
Kicked, bit
Choked, tried to drown
Hit with object
Beat up
Threatened with gun
Threatened with knife
Used gun
Used knife


Physical assault by intimate partner, total =

7.4% 22.1%
Source: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice, 1999, Table 3.36, p. 197.

The United States is not alone in the abuse of it's mothers. In 1994 "Nearly three in ten Canadian women (29%) who have ever been married or lived in a common-law relationship have been physically or sexually assaulted by a marital partner at some point during the relationship; 21 % of these women were assaulted during pregnancy." (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence Making matters worse, "Children witnessed violence against their mothers in almost 40% of violent marriages; in many cases of children witnessing violence, the violence was so severe that the women feared for their lives (52%) and/or were injured (61 %)." (National Clearinghouse on Family Violence

The situation in England is no better. "Domestic violence is the second most reported crime, accounting for about 25% of violent incidents reported to the police. Almost half of all murders of women are committed by their male partner. The British Medical Journal (Volume 311, January, 1995) reported that women subjected to physical abuse are more likely to report mental health problems including anxiety, depression, and attempts at suicide." (Tim Field, no date, page)

What can the health care community do?

The health care community includes both those who administer to our physical health and mental health. Most of our attention, however, will be on what mental health professionals (i.e., psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, counselors) could do to reduce gang activity and youth violence.

Failing intervention and remediation by any other means (i.e., by other family members, members of the faith community), the health care community may intercede. It often does this as a result of court orders - orders given as a result of arrests, convictions, and conditions of formal or informal probation. Among the most effective interventions are those which address the need for family counseling, anger management, non-violent conflict resolution, and substance abuse withdrawal. Left untreated, any one of these problems may lead to continued spousal- and child abuse.

I am not a therapist. I have, however, worked with and interviewed psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors as well as many of their clients - gang members and non-members. From what I've learned, the solutions suggested in this Part of Into the Abyss appear to be effective strategies for reducing gang activity and youth violence seemingly related to violence experienced in one's home. According to Hollin (Hollin, 1993), some of the solutions are directed at the offending juvenile while others are directed at an entire social institution - such as the family, schools, the justice system, or community-based treatment programs.

Individual programs can be subdivided into individual behavior therapy (reinforcement, punishment), social skills training, and cognitive-behavior modification (self-control and self-instruction, anger control, role-taking, social problem solving, moral reasoning development). In other types of programs, the focus is on change via an external agency such a residential institution or community program. The latter may consist of school-based intervention, family-based intervention (parent management training, functional family therapy), probation, or diversionary projects. (Hollin, 1993)

Previously in Into the Abyss, the topic of risk- and protective factors was discussed. As regards these factors, it has been found that "The likelihood of a youth developing problems increases rapidly as the number of risk factors increases in comparison with the number of protective factors. (Dunst and Trivette, 1994; Rutter, 1990, 1993) The goal of family-focused prevention programs should be not only to decrease risk factors, but also to increase ongoing family protective mechanisms." (Kumpfer and Alvarado, 1998, page 3)  Kumpfer and Alvarado found the five major family protective factors to be: 

bullet supportive parent-child relationships
bulletpositive discipline methods
bulletmonitoring and supervision
bulletfamilies who advocate for their children
bulletparents who seek information and support." (Kumpfer and Alvarado, 1998, page 3) 

It should be kept in mind that "No one program [or solution] has the resources or the expertise to develop a truly comprehensive response to children and families experiencing violence. Programs must work together." (Wilson, November, 2000, page, see Principle 1)

Exemplary-, Model- and Promising Solutions

In 1996, the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence ... designed and launched a national violence prevention initiative to identify and replicate violence prevention programs that are effective. The project, called Blueprints for Violence Prevention, has identified 11 prevention and intervention programs that meet a strict scientific standard of program effectiveness. (Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, circa 2001, page)

Two of the programs identified as model programs by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence are briefly described below. The program descriptions were drawn from the Center for the Study of Prevention and Violence web site entitled Blueprints for Violence Prevention: Model Programs and were edited here for brevity. Links to more complete explanations are provided within each description. 

bulletThe Functional Family Therapy Program:
"The Functional Family Therapy Program
"is an outcome-driven prevention and intervention program for youth who have demonstrated the entire range of maladaptive, acting out behaviors and related syndromes. [The] Program targets youth, aged 11-18, at risk for and/or presenting with delinquency, violence, substance use, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Disruptive Behavior Disorder." (Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence)

bulletMultisystemic Therapy:
"Multisystemic Therapy is an intensive family- and community-based treatment that addresses the multiple determinants of serious antisocial behavior in juvenile offenders. The multi-systemic approach views individuals as being nested within a complex network of interconnected systems that encompass individual, family, and extra-familial (peer, school, neighborhood) factors. Intervention may be necessary in any one or a combination of these systems. 

"MST targets chronic, violent, or substance abusing male or female juvenile offenders, ages 12 to 17, at high risk of out-of-home placement, and the offenders' families.

"The major goal of MST is to empower parents with the skills and resources needed to independently address the difficulties that arise in raising teenagers and to empower youth to cope with family, peer, school, and neighborhood problems. Within a context of support and skill building, the therapist places developmentally appropriate demands on the adolescent and family for responsible behavior." (Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence)

Juvenile toughs, sex offenders, and drug abusers are more likely to reform when they receive home-based therapeutic services instead of out-of-home care. MST has been winning the attention of policy leaders with words rarely heard in mental-health programs - cost savings and results. (Pascual, no date)

The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs has a website which outlines several "promising and proven programs on youth violence prevention." Here is a brief description of each of the programs and their associated web links.

In addition, the following offer some promise of addressing the issue of youth violence.

bulletBrief Strategic Family Therapy:
"Just as a child is influenced by his or her family, in turn, is affected by the culture of which it is an integral part. If we are to succeed in preventing and combating delinquency, we must work to strengthen the role of the family within the community in which it resides. 

"This Bulletin from the National Institute of Justice on Brief Strategic Family Therapy features a family-strengthening strategy  - brief strategic family therapy - that integrates theory with decades of research and practice in an intensive, short-term, problem-focused intervention, generally lasting 3 months.  The Bulletin also describes the implementation by the Spanish Family Guidance Center" which serves Miami's (FL) local Hispanic community. (Wilson, April, 2000, page)


Functional Family Therapy: 
"Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is one of the current generation of family-based treatments for adolescent behavior problems. As both a prevention and an intervention program, FFT has been implemented in various treatment contexts and with culturally diverse client populations. The success of FFT is due to its integration of a clear, comprehensive, and multi-systemic clinical model with ongoing research on clinical process and outcomes. FFT also includes a systematic training and community implementation program. The results of more than 30 years of clinical research suggest that by following these principles, FFT can reduce recidivism and/or prevent the onset of delinquency. These results can be accomplished with treatment costs well below those of traditional services and other interventions

"Unique to FFT is its systematic yet individualized family-focused approach to juvenile crime, violence, drug abuse, and other related problems. The phases of FFT provide therapists with specific goals for each family interaction. Although systematic, each phase is guided by core principles that help the therapist adjust and adapt the goals of the phase to the unique characteristics of the family. In this way, FFT ensures treatment fidelity while remaining respectful of individual families and cultures and unique community needs." (Sexton and Alexander, 2000, page)


Family Strengthening for High-Risk Youth: 
Cantelon, describing Family Strengthening for High-Risk Youth states that "Children whose families fail to provide adequate supervision are more likely to become anti-social. Lacking proper role models, children develop their own norms based largely on their desires. While children are the first victims of the deterioration of family life, society suffers as well. Strengthening the ability of families to rear children must become--and remain--a national priority. The influence of the family environment on the child's social development lasts a lifetime. Accordingly, effective delinquency prevention efforts must involve the family, and should incorporate family strengthening."
(Cantelon, 1994)


Mental Health Services for At-Risk and Adjudicated Youth:
Fejes-Mendoza, et al.
(1995), writing about Mental Health Services for At-Risk and Adjudicated Youths state that "Failed female attachments appear to be a unique insufficiency to female offenders, and may insidiously support an unproductive slide into dependency (an inability to mobilize oneself to take necessary action or responsibility). 

"Preventive and acute treatment models need to be developed for adolescent female delinquents that focus on interpersonal, academic, and vocational competence, and that embrace gender-sensitive constructs.

"Timely assessment of educational needs, particularly those related to possible disabilities, are crucial since female offenders are generally less educated than male offenders and have fewer opportunities for becoming more educated.

"Without adequate educational, vocational, and social relationship sills, however, future adult financial independence is improbable, and repetitive delinquency is likely. Correctional programs with comprehensive service delivery models sensitive to the needs of adolescent females (e.g., pregnant and parenting moms) need to be explored." (Fejes-Mendoza, et al., 1995, p. 319)

Emergency Room Intervention and Victim Programs

Both a nurse and a gunshot victim he was trying to help were shot Saturday night, as they tried to bring the victim into the emergency room ... (W)hen the victim was brought to the emergency room door by witnesses to his shooting, a male nurse came out to help and was attempting to load him on a hospital gurney. As he did so, another vehicle, possibly containing the original suspect in the shooting, pulled up and fired several additional shots at the good Samaritan and the victim ... Hospital security experts say that this sad scenario is more familiar than one might imagine. (Staten, 1996, page)

Physical harm often accompanies gang membership. Medical professionals in the health care community need to be aware of the various physical signs of gang affiliation and the possibility that, when not readily apparent, an individual's injuries may be gang-related. If they are, notification of the police may be in order. Hospital policy may be instructive in this regard. If, however, there is no policy for reported alleged gang-affiliation, policy may need to be developed. 

The detection of gang membership, as exhibited on one's body, may sometimes be difficult. Three small dots tattooed on the back of one's hand or ear or a tattoo of a five- or six-pointed star are possible indicators of gang membership as are thousands of others kinds of tattoos. There are other obvious and ominous signs of gang membership and gang-related violence such as bruises and cuts from beatings or sexual assaults related to gang initiation rites. Health care professionals should be trained to detect these signs so they can inform the community's efforts to reduce activity and youth violence.

The following are examples of the policies which have been or are being put into practice.


Emergency room intervention and victim programs:
A variety of effective emergency room intervention and victim programs have emerged. "The hospital emergency room is a promising arena for intervening in gang violence, including homicide. Hutson and colleagues
(1995) suggest that an emergency room intervention program for injured victims could help to break the cycle of gang violence.

"Others have proposed counseling for victims of drive-by shootings to reduce the traumatic effects of victimization and discourage retaliation. One example of an emergency room program, the Partnership for a Safer Cleveland, provides gang recognition seminars for hospital emergency room staff. As a result, gang-involved youth are referred elsewhere for medical and psychological services.

"Teens on Target (TNT), administered by Youth Alive!, nonprofit agency in Oakland, CA, seeks to reduce youth injuries and death from gang-related and other gun violence through peer education, intervention, mentoring, and leadership development. TNT leaders—many of them violence victims—developed a training curriculum to address the relationship between violence and family contexts, guns, gangs, and drugs; the causes and effects of violence; and advocacy skills necessary to stop such violence.

"Intervention with victims of gang violence can also be accomplished outside hospital emergency rooms. The Child Development-Community Policing (CD–CP) model in New Haven, CT, is an excellent example. In this program, police refer victims of violent crimes, including victims of gang violence, to the CD–CP program for counseling." (Howell, 2000, page)

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), in its publication Effective Family Strengthening Interventions, identifies over thirty exemplary-, model-, and promising programs or strategies for reducing behavioral problems and delinquency. While there may be many potential therapies and other programs in the field of mental health which can reduce gang activity and youth violence, none of them will come into fruition without a plan of action. The OJJDP has developed such a plan.

A Blueprint for Action

In their publication Children Exposed to Violence: A Blueprint for Action (OJJDP, November, 2000) the OJJDP suggests the following eight principles be followed. I have taken the liberty of condensing the content knowing you can explore each principle in detail by simply clicking on its title below.

Principle 1: Work together
Principle 2: Begin early
Principle 3: Think developmentally
Principle 4: Make mothers safe to keep children safe
Principle 5: Enforce the law
Principle 6: Make adequate resources available
Principle 7: Work from a sound knowledge base
Principle 8: Create a culture of non-violence

Principle 1: Work together

"When it comes to responding to the tragedy of violence, coordination among professionals is absolutely crucial." (Wilson, November, 2000, page) The topic of inter-agency cooperation and coordination was addressed previously. The OJJDP suggests that, "In the final analysis, no one program has the resources or the expertise to develop a truly comprehensive response to children and families experiencing violence. Programs must work together. In fact, experience shows that coordinated responses to children exposed to violence can accomplish the following:

bulletReduce the number of interviews and other agency procedures a child undergoes.

bulletMinimize the number of individuals involved in a case.
bulletEnhance the quality of evidence discovered.

bulletProvide essential information to family and child protection services agencies.

bulletHelp build comprehensive safety plans for battered women and their children.

bulletPrevent the system from holding battered women accountable for the actions of the abuser (thereby increasing the danger to mothers and children).

bulletGenerally minimize the likelihood of conflicts and finger-pointing among agencies with different philosophies and mandates." (Wilson, November, 2000, page)

Principle 2: Begin early

A persistent message throughout Into the Abyss has been the need to begin prevention efforts with children at the earliest age possible. "Beginning earlier means:

bulletStart before the child is born. It is necessary to reach at-risk families even before a child is born. All medical providers, including public health departments and home visitation programs, should routinely assess for violence against women during pregnancy - it is perpetrated against up to 16 percent of pregnant women and may be a predictor of future child abuse.

bulletStart at home. New parents need help and support to become capable and nurturing caretakers. The importance of bonding, attachment, and connectedness cannot be overstated. Home visiting by trained professionals - especially nurses - is a strategy that is demonstrating increasingly positive results. Expanding the availability of parenting education based outside the home also is important.

bulletReduce isolation. Families that are isolated from kinship or community supports are at greater risk for violence. It is critical to figure out who these families are and connect them to the community. It is also necessary to develop specific strategies to counter batterers’ deliberate isolation of their partners and families. Comprehensive support services and programs, including childcare, National Head Start / Early Head Start, and recreational activities, are essential.

bulletPrepare for emergencies. Many of the children who are served by crisis nurseries and other respite programs witness violence every day. Respite and crisis care services can play a significant role in preventing violence by providing parents or caretakers temporary relief or assistance in times of stress or crisis. In addition, domestic violence advocates are also key players in providing assistance, support, and shelter for women and their children in times of crisis.

bulletRemember youth. Unfortunately, some youth who are victims of violence are themselves parents who may become perpetrators of violence against their own young children. Teen parents need developmentally based support.

bulletTrain, train, train. Professional training across disciplines should include information about the effects of violence on very young children, ways to work with these children and their families, and the dynamics of domestic violence." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

Over half of the kids coming into the child welfare system are age 6 or below and historically we’ve done nothing to ask questions about them. We ignore these children as if we were blind to them. We must give each of these children a face. (The Honorable Cindy Lederman, Presiding Judge of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Court, page)

When you visit Principle 2 you will also be led to a number of organizations and agencies which facilitate in the process of addressing issues of violence when children are very young. 

Principle 3: Think developmentally

Children of all ages experience violence. "Yet, in many ways, there has been a failure to take into account the changing needs of children exposed to violence at different stages in their lives or to recognize that it is possible to help an older child overcome the impact of violence that may have occurred years ago. Too often, a child’s developmental level or age is disregarded. Perhaps worse, the procedures and settings are often geared to the needs of adults, not to children at all. This is not an effective strategy." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

According to the OJJDP, "Bringing prevention, intervention, and accountability systems in line with the developmental needs of children can be accomplished through four principal strategies:


Providing training for all professional disciplines on child development (with particular attention to the early years) and ensuring access to child development experts when necessary.


Making the physical environments where services are provided child-friendly.


Changing agency procedures so they are consistent with children’s needs and capacities.


Partnering with schools." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

By visiting Principle 3 you will learn much more about each of these strategies and how to implement them.

Principle 4: Make mothers safe to keep children safe

Unfortunately, "three related assumptions still serve as the basis for much policy and practice. These assumptions must be challenged so that the groundwork can be laid for solutions that will be more successful than past efforts. 

"The first assumption is that maltreatment of children and violence against women are completely separate phenomena. The second is that children who witness violence are not significantly affected by it. The third is that the non-abusive parent in a domestic violence situation (the mother in 95 percent of the cases) should be held accountable for the actions of the abuser." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

As concerns those assumptions, research conducted by the OJJDP supports the fact that a) c

hild maltreatment and violence against women often happen under the same roof, b) violence exceeds the bounds of physical harm (children also suffer psychological, social, and emotional harm), and c) battered (non-offending) mothers are allies for those who are trying to protect the children. (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

Visit Principle 4 to learn about the various organizations and agencies with effective programs underway to make mothers safe.

Principle 5: Enforce the law

"The criminal justice system has a responsibility to make changes that will hold perpetrators of violence against women and children accountable for their actions through vigorous enforcement of the law." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

We judges don’t follow up on our orders. We have to bring batterers in, and create a legal and judicial culture of safety that prevents future harm. (The Honorable Ernestine Gray, Administrative Judge,
Orleans Parish [LA] Juvenile Court, page)

"Why are the laws not fully upheld? Probable reasons include cultural prohibitions against intervening in “family matters,” this Nation’s early history of treating women and children as property and not according them basic rights, and continued bias and discrimination against women. Regardless of the origins of the problem, the criminal justice system has a responsibility to make changes that will hold perpetrators of violence against women and children accountable for their actions through vigorous enforcement of the law." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

You can read more about Principle 5 to learn how to take action on this principle including legislative action, changes in policies and procedures, and other resources for enforcing laws against interpersonal violence.

Principle 6: Make adequate resources available

"There is no doubt that addressing the needs of children exposed to violence is initially expensive. Yet over the long term, these expenditures prove to be extremely cost effective. Being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 53 percent and of arrest for a violent crime as an adult by 38 percent. Therefore, preventing the violence or reducing its impact soon after it occurs means - at a minimum - saving the later costs of investigating, prosecuting, and rehabilitating juvenile and adult offenders who were child victims.

Some prevention programs that have studied expenditures versus outcomes are confirming the cost effectiveness of early, high-quality efforts. For example, the Tender Loving Care Home Visitation program in Oakland, CA, documents that the cost of the program in governmental and societal services ($6,000 per family per year) is recovered by the newborn child’s fourth birthday and the projected cost savings over a child’s lifetime are four times the cost of the program." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

Learn more about how to take action to make sure adequate resources are available by visiting Principle 6.

Principle 7: Work from a sound knowledge base

We are talking about a lot of children. 8,000 in Miami, 31,500 in Chicago, 2,300 in Salt Lake City. Almost 500,000 children nationwide—1 to 2 percent of the children in every community. And we know so little about them. (The Honorable Cindy Lederman,
Presiding Judge of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Court, page)

"There are significant differences in philosophy, strategy, and focus among the diverse professionals working with children exposed to violence. Yet there is consensus that despite a strong foundation, much more solid research and data are needed. There is also consensus that this lack of information makes it difficult to select the most effective interventions and get them funded." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

There’s harder science that can be brought to bear. We must know with precision how much child abuse there is and whether it is rising or falling. (David Chadwick, MD,
Director Emeritus of the Center for Child Protection,
Children’s Hospital, San Diego [CA], page)

"Wherever possible, efforts to prevent and reduce the impact of children’s exposure to violence must be based on solid research. These efforts must also be documented and evaluated so that future endeavors can be improved on the basis of experience. These imperatives are at the root of elevating the issue of children and violence to a level of national prominence, securing adequate funding, and, most important, protecting children and their families. 

Participants in the National Summit on Children Exposed to Violence identified three critical components of an effective research strategy:


Research should seek input from community members, practitioners, and victims and, where possible, should be conducted in active collaboration with them.


International collaboration should be fostered to gain and share knowledge worldwide.


More concerted efforts are needed to broadly disseminate research findings, best and promising practices, and community directories of resources and practices. Consideration should be given to establishing a national clearinghouse." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

Principle 8: Create a culture of nonviolence

"In the broadest terms, this means creating a culture with zero tolerance for violence—one that promotes peaceful conflict resolution; rejects the use of power and control over children, women, and minorities; and respects racial, cultural, and class differences. It is also a culture that values and supports care-giving and parenting and recognizes the importance of the relationships between children and their parents and other caregivers, especially in the early years." (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

By visiting Principle 8 you will learn how to take action through various agencies and learn about what communities and individuals can do to help create a culture of nonviolence.

Were I to add anything to the OJJDP's Blueprint for Action it would be the need to promote community awareness of violence if it doesn't already exist. Taking action is difficult without community awareness and support. One mechanism for accomplishing this goal is the community forum. Another finds mental health professionals speaking in local schools on the subject of violence, it's impact, and alternatives to its expression.

Children’s exposure to violence is an issue that touches everyone - an American tragedy that scars children and threatens the safety of communities. A great challenge lies ahead: to help move this country closer to the day when children are no longer victims of and witnesses to violence, when they are given the support they need to thrive, and when they respond to conflict nonviolently, without destroying their lives and the lives of others. (OJJDP, November, 2000, page)

We now turn to the mass media and the role it could play in reducing gang activity and youth violence.


Additional Resources: If you are an EMS provider, there's a Power Point presentation on the Internet that may be of interest to you.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has a number of publications which deal with violence. Type in the keyword violence at the APA Publication Web site.

You can read about a doctor who believes the road to ending violence and injuries begins with examining the causes behind them - some of which are related to gangs.

© 2002 Michael K. Carlie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author and copyright holder - Michael K. Carlie.