Lesson 4
Child Victims

Background

     The victimization rate for children 12 through 19 is higher than that for any other age group. (Note: Criminal victimization data are not collected for children under 12 years of age.) In addition, according to the American Medical Association, approximately 1,100 children die each year from abuse and neglect while 140,000 are injured. Uniform Crime Report data indicate that almost 2,000 children under the age of 18 were murdered in 1996. Finally, murder and nonnegligent manslaughter are the causes of death for approximately 17 percent of children under the age of 19.

     When children are victimized, their normal physiological and psychological adjustment to life is disrupted. Furthermore, they must cope with the trauma of their victimization again and again in each succeeding developmental stage of life after the crime.

     Child victims suffer not only physical and emotional traumas from their victimization. When their victimization is reported, children are forced to enter the stressful “adult” world of the criminal justice system. Adults—perhaps the same adults who were unable to provide protection in the first place—are responsible for restoring the children's sense that there are safe places where they can go and safe people who they can turn to. As a law enforcement officer, you can play a key role in this process and lessen the likelihood of long-term trauma for child victims.

Tips for Responding to Child Victims