Violence does not only impact victims that have been directly harmed, but also affects those who have witnessed it. The College’s Bonner Center hosted a forum on Thursday, March 21 that questioned a panel of experts dealing with violence on community and political levels.
Michelle Daniels, the Network Community Coordinator for Trenton, works at the Bonner Center and organized the forum in hopes of providing awareness and reducing violence.
The panel included regional medical examiner Dr. Roger Mitchell Jr., Dr. Sandy Gibson of the TCNJ Department of Counselor Education, Assistant Attorney General Wanda Moore, director of Urban Alternatives Solutions Larry Davis and Eugene Thomas, founder of Buried Treasures.
The experts focused on the need for treatment among victims of violence in impoverished areas. They also discussed some possible solutions to decrease violence in communities.
Thomas, who grew up in a rough environment in Newark, N.J. and spent several years in jail, spoke passionately on behalf of the cause.
“We can afford to incarcerate children, but we can’t afford psychological help,” he said. He was raised believing physical discipline was “normal” and as a consequence of this exposure to violence, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Suburban American children get immediate counseling,” Thomas said after being exposed to violence, while poor children do not. “All children must be treated the same.”
Davis explained that many children were misdiagnosed with having ADHD and are not given the chance to use services that will truly help them.
Mitchell went on to explain, “We need to start framing violence as a public health issue.” If violence was given a “multi-disciplinary approach,” it would help decrease its occurrence.
“A known and expected outcome to being exposed to violence, is violence,” Mitchell said. Each panelist agreed that violence primarily begins at the home and with the family life of a child.
Moor, who was a public defender before becoming assistant attorney general, explained that in many of the assault cases she has faced, “no one talked about what would happen to the child.”
While violence is a reality that is extremely difficult to overcome, the panelists offered solutions that they hope can reduce violence in communities and provide proper care to those that fall victim to it.
Gibson offered different policy approaches to the community. She explained in detail how she developed an Across the Ages Inter-generational Program, “targeting youth and specific risk factors for youth and family in a specific community.”
The program was successful because they gathered information on one specific area. This program may be unsuccessful in other areas because it does not fit the needs of other communities. “You need strategic planning,” Gibson said.
There are models that can be adapted to multiple communities, explained Gibson. Creating employment opportunities and businesses in violent and impoverished communities instills a sense of hope. “They feel they are valued,” she said.
Relating to Gibson’s comment, Mitchell later said, “A job is a bullet proof vest.” He elaborated that a sustainable community decreases violence.
“Education has been a surrogate family,” Mitchell said. A caring teacher can make a difference in a child’s life, one who may not be cared for at home.
“A single caring adult is the strongest resiliency factor in combatting violet behavior,” Gibson said.
Moore stressed to the audience, “Ask questions if a child doesn’t come to school” and to never say “what’s wrong with you?”, but rather, “How can I help you?”
Similar to Moor’s caring approach, the panelists all agreed it takes sincerity and trust to help victims exposed to violence. Davis, who has worked with and helped many troubled children, explained that the solution lies with behavior modification and “post-criminal thinking.” But most of all, to be sincere, “show them some peace and love,” Davis said.