Defending Children Initiative - Department of Justice
Protect - Heal - Thrive


Defending Childhood
Department of Justice


Defending Children Initiative - Department of Justice

Protect - Heal - Thrive

Department of Justice - Office of Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

October 2010

Defending Childhood is an initiative of Attorney General Eric Holder that strives to harness resources from across the Department of Justice to:
  • Prevent children's exposure to violence;

  • Mitigate the negative impact of children's exposure to violence when it does occur, and;

  • Develop knowledge and spread awareness about children's exposure to violence.


The Attorney General has launched the Defending Childhood initiative to address a national crisis: the exposure of America’s children to violence as victims and as witnesses. The Attorney General has been personally and professionally committed to this issue for many years, dating back to early in his career when he served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and through his tenure as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration.

A recent U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)-funded study concluded that a majority of children in the United States have been exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities. The consequences of this problem are significant and widespread. Children’s exposure to violence, whether as victims or witnesses, is often associated with long-term physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Children exposed to violence are also at a higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior later in life and becoming part of a cycle of violence.

"We’ve got to break this cycle of violence. Through enhanced prevention, intervention, and accountability efforts, I believe we can. And I know that this work begins by coming together and reinvigorating our commitment to collaboration," said Attorney General Eric Holder.

The goals of the initiative are to prevent exposure to violence, mitigate the negative impacts of exposure when it does occur, and develop knowledge and spread awareness about this issue.
We will achieve these goals by building on prior and ongoing efforts; developing a comprehensive, coordinated, and collaborative effort with our public and private partners; and leveraging federal resources and federal funding within DOJ and throughout the government. In 2010, DOJ provided more than $5.5 million to address the high incidence of American children’s exposure to violence. The President’s fiscal year 2011 budget request includes $37 million for this initiative.


• Children exposed to violence are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic disorders; fail or have difficulty in school; and become delinquent and engage in criminal behavior.

• Sixty percent of American children were exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities.

• Almost 40 percent of American children were direct victims of 2 or more violent acts, and 1 in 10 were victims of violence 5 or more times.

• Children are more likely to be exposed to violence and crime than adults.

• Almost 1 in 10 American children saw one family member assault another family member, and more than 25 percent had been exposed to family violence during their life.

• A child’s exposure to one type of violence increases the likelihood that the child will be exposed to other types of violence and exposed multiple times.

* Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Ormrod, R., Hamby, S., and Kracke, K. 2009. Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey. Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. More information is available at: or

Defending Childhood News:

October 12, 2010
Defending Childhood
Every day children across America are exposed to violence in their homes, in their schools, and in their communities. To better understand the nature and extent of the problem, the Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sponsor the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence.

September 23, 2010
Attorney General Holder Unveils Defending Childhood Initiative
Attorney General Eric Holder today officially unveiled Defending Childhood , a new Department of Justice initiative focused on addressing children's exposure to violence.

September 23, 2010
Attorney General Holder Speaks at Safe Shores - the DC Children's Advocacy Center Today, Safe Shores is a model of public-private collaboration at its best, an example for Child Advocacy Centers across and beyond the country, and a critical partner in the work of seeking and administering justice.

September 23, 2010
Grants Awarded Under Defending Childhood
More information on the $5.5 Million in Grants Awarded for the First Phase of Initiative


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U.S. Department of Justice
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