Children’s exposure to violence, which can cause physical, emotional, and psychological harm, is “one of the greatest public safety and public health epidemics of our time,” Holder told the audience.
Children today are much more likely than adults to be exposed to violence and crime, from bullying at school, seeing parents strike each other, or experiencing a knife or gunfight, he said.
Whether a child is a victim or a witness, he added, “Violence affects the brain as much as it affects the body and the spirit.”
Research has demonstrated the cumulative effect of violence, Holder continued, citing a Justice Department study that found “a majority of our children — more than 60 percent of them — have been exposed to some type of crime, abuse, or violence.”
According to Holder, these children are more likely to suffer depression or to fail in school; have a greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse as adults; are more likely to develop chronic disease; have difficulty establishing emotional closeness; and are more likely to commit acts of violence.
Through grant making, Holder replied. “You’d be surprised at the number of cities and neighborhoods that want to try these things.”