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Children Exposed to Violence and Gun Violence

The Children Exposed to Violence Unit (CEV) within the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney is the first of its kind in the nation. This is a trauma-informed unit that supports children from the time a violent crime is committed and is dedicated to reducing the impacts violence causes on children directly or indirectly.

The exposure of children to violence is a national epidemic that affects an estimated 46- million children in the United States. No matter where the violence occurs, at home, school, or in the community, exposure to violence is a uniquely traumatic experience for children with consequences that can last a lifetime.

Recognizing this troublesome reality, prosecutors within the Children Exposed to Violence initiative are devoted to ensuring the safety and well-being of children through not only prosecution, but also prevention, intervention and educational programs.

Children Exposed to Gun Violence

When gun violence occurs in a community, children are often witnesses to the event and its aftermath. The impact of gun violence exposure is associated with learning, health, emotional and behavioral issues immediately following the event and also later in life.

The City Attorney's REACH TEAM®, in partnership with the renowned Children's Institute, LAPD, as well as LAPD’s Community Safety Partnership Bureau (CSPB) and local nonprofit organizations, aims to ensure that children and families exposed to gun violence in LAPD's Southeast and 77th Division (and growing to cover all of South Los Angeles and Newton Division by the end of 2023) receive appropriate and timely crisis intervention and support services.

Common Types of Violence to Which Children are Exposed

Prenatal Exposure to Violence:

  • Violence experienced by the mother is also experienced by the unborn child
  • Screaming, yelling or extremely loud noises are experienced by the unborn child as distress

Exposure to Violence in Infancy:

  • Assault by a sibling
  • Loud / violent Arguments between parents
  • Violence against the primary caregiver
  • Neglect / physical / sexual abuse

 Exposure to Violence in Young Children (Ages 25), MiddleAge Children (Ages 610):

  • Bullying / assaults by peers or others with or without a weapon
  • Sexual abuse / assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Witnessing community and/or family violence

 Exposure to Violence in PreTeens (Ages 11 to 13) and Adolescence (Ages 14 to 17):

  • All psychological & emotional abuse
  • Bullying / assaults by peers with or without a weapon
  • Dating violence
  • Gang violence
  • Sexual assault / harassment
  • Unwanted online sexual solicitation or exploitation
  • Witnessing community and/or family violence

What Should I do When I Know My Child Has Been Exposed to Violence or Trauma?

The first thing to consider is the safety of the child. Is the child in a safe place? If not, make sure to get the child to a safe place, if possible. Once the child is safe, it is good to talk to the child about what happened. Talking to children about violence is never easy.

Adults tend to avoid talking to children for the following reasons:

  • It is over now. Why talk about it?
  • It might make things worse.
  • I do not know what to say.
  • I am scared to bring it up.
  • I have tried, but my child does not want to talk about it.

It is normal to have these thoughts, but talking is the first step toward healing. You may feel uncomfortable, but here are some ways to get started:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Talk to someone you trust and who can help you gather your thoughts.
  • Plan what you want to say to your child.

Additional Resources

  • The REACH Team® (for violent incidents in South LA where children are exposed directly or indirectly). 1-800-984-2404