Violence Intervention Conference
Youth ALIVE! Organizes National Conference of Violence Intervention Programs
Youth ALIVE! is part of a national, even an international, movement to bring immediate, trauma-informed healing to our violently wounded youth. Along with the 31 members of the National Network of Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs, we seek to interrupt, with understanding and care, the cycle of violence at this vulnerable but crucial moment in a young person’s life. The objective is to intervene with urgency, and then to support our wounded youth on their path to mental and physical recovery. This year, Youth ALIVE! organized the largest national meeting yet of organizations dedicated to addressing the trauma that persists in the aftermath of a shooting.
The symptoms of this trauma are often the source of future violence, as victims remain fearful, anxious, hypervigilant and sleepless. Nerves are raw. Anger is high. Nervous, frightened, angry people react rashly, and sometimes violently.
This year, the NNHVIP, Youth ALIVE!, Cure Violence and emerging programs that are federal grantees in the Supporting Male Survivors of Violence program have formed a broader coalition, under the umbrella of the Healing Justice Alliance. They all gathered at this year’s conference, devoted to “Building a Community of Healers: Healing the Wounds of Violence and Injustice.”
The NNHVIP’s mission is to strengthen existing hospital-based violence intervention programs, to help develop similar programs in communities across the country and to inform public policies related to violent youth victimization and trauma. The Healing Justice Alliance seeks to end the cycle of violence by working at the community level, using a public health approach that addresses trauma as a root cause of violence.
Gathered in Baltimore were frontline violence prevention workers, hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, social workers, policy makers, researchers, managers, veteran programs and new ones. Over the course of three days in August, violence prevention staff from all over the country sought ways to improve access to culturally responsive victim services for survivors of color, to catalyze a national commitment to address violence as a health issue, and to inspire each other in what is often very difficult, draining and even dangerous work.
As one attendee wrote, “The conference was invigorating, exciting and inspiring. I feel recommitted to the work, to working with intention, to loving youth hard, to examining the systems, to spreading the word that violence is a public health issue.”
Keynote speaker Ben Jealous, former head of the NAACP, gave a rousing keynote address reiterating the injustices visited upon communities of color and the real possibilities for healing those communities.
Over the course of the succeeding three days, each of the 300-plus attendees could follow any of six thematic tracks on healing, justice, intervention, research, partnerships, designed to be useful to everyone from frontline workers to hospital administrators. As one attendee wrote afterwards, “The team-building activities made networking and connecting enjoyable. I thought the sessions were powerful and I learned so much.”
“Besides its big and enthusiastic attendance,” said Network Manager and Youth ALIVE! staffer Linnea Ashely, “what made this conference powerful was the wide geographical and experiential reach and its inclusiveness. Older organizations like ours benefited from the excitement of newer organizations; new organizations were inspired by the knowledge, and generosity of the established groups. This truly felt like the embodiment of a moment and a movement, a healing movement.”