Almost on a weekly basis, we sit, rapt at our television sets and our computer screens, horrified by images of children enduring inconceivable trauma. In May, we saw children pulled from the wreckage of tornado damage in Oklahoma. That same month, we watched the scene in Ohio as a 6-year-old girl was recovered from the home where she’d been held captive her entire life. And last year, we heard the stories of 20 children who were murdered in their elementary school in front of their classmates in Newtown, Connecticut.
On these days, we hug our children a little closer. We shake our heads, and feel grateful for what we have, and mourn what others have lost.
What we do not think about are the countless children who experience trauma just as harrowing but far too common to make headlines. Every day, children across the country face physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, community violence, loss of family members, poverty, and mental illness. Every year, 3 million cases of child abuse and neglect are reported in the U.S. Many, many more go unreported. These traumas can have devastating effects on children’s physical and mental health, and are linked to a wide range of problems such as addiction and other self-harming behaviors, including suicide. The long-term effects of childhood trauma, in fact, can ripple throughout society, well into the upper echelons and periphery. We are all affected.