Many Youths Fearful in Their City
Earlier this month, Boston Globe article titled “Many Youths Fearful in Their City” (Anna Badkhen , November 7, 2007) caught my attention, at first in response to the startling headline and then once I read it, because of something else as well. This story, like many we have all seen in the news of late, put a spotlight on the violence which has become pervasive in several neighborhoods in Boston. However, this telling, through powerful comments from youth themselves, reflected upon something which seems to be rarely discussed in the media: how youth who are not directly involved in a violent incident are significantly affected, and often traumatized by it. According to the Boston Youth Survey, a biennial report that is a product of a collaboration effort between the City of Boston’s Office of Human Services, the Boston Public Health Commission and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, 65% of high school youth surveyed reported witnessing one or more acts of violence in the past year.
How do we begin to address this issue? Well, we know that a positive relationship with a caring adult is a powerful protective factor in the lives of all youth. For young people traumatized by violence, these relationships are all the more important. We also know that it is essential to provide the adults who work with youth the training they need to identify those who are struggling to cope and the ability to support them effectively. By focusing on supporting youth serving agencies’ efforts to provide safe places for youth to engage in enriching activities in and out of school, establish mentoring relationships between youth and volunteers in the community, and provide training for staff around how to build strong relationships with youth, we as a community can begin to address this very troubling problem.
One final thought. The Boston Youth Survey also reports that although 42% of youth believe it would be easy to get a gun, the vast majority of both youth who reported carrying a gun in the last year and those who did not would much prefer to live in a safer world where there was less need for guns. All young people, regardless of where they live, deserve at least that much.