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Report of the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence

We are facing one of the most significant challenges to the future of America's children that we have ever known. Our children are experiencing and witnessing violence on an alarming scale. This exposure to violence is not limited to one community or one group of children. It occurs among all ethnic and racial groups; in urban, suburban, and rural areas; in gated communities and on tribal lands. Advances in neuroscience and child development have taught us that the trauma children experience when they are exposed to physical, sexual, and emotional violence harms their ability to mature cognitively and emotionally, and it scars them physically and emotionally well into their adult lives. Some of our children may grow up in safety and stability, but when millions do not, our entire society suffers. We pay astronomical costs to the healthcare, child welfare, justice, and other systems because we have not yet done what we know works to prevent and treat childhood exposure to violence. U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., charged this task force with recommending ways our nation can prevent, reduce, and treat children's exposure to violence. We have taken this charge seriously. We have heard from dozens of people who work to prevent, reduce, and treat children's exposure to violence, as well as from those who have experienced it. Their stories of what they had seen and lived through were sometimes horrifying but always inspired us to deeper commitment. What we learned from them has changed the way we think about this issue. The good news is that we know what works to address children's exposure to violence. Now we must work courageously to find the resources to spread the solutions and implement them where they are needed. We must actively engage youth, families, and communities in the development of local solutions to these problems. We must protect children, and we must not look away when they are in pain. We also must not let our own fears and pain stop us from helping. Above all, we must give them hope that their future will be better and safer. We thank Attorney General Holder for shining a bright light on children's exposure to violence. It has been a tremendous honor to serve on this task force. We stand with the Attorney General and you, the reader of this report, ready to begin. When our children are dying, we cannot afford to wait.
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