An unprecedented level of national concern about crime has ensued following incidents of high-profile violent crimes perpetrated by and against youth. As evidenced by several fatal school shootings in rural and suburban communities across the United States, school violence is not just an isolated problem occurring in destitute, inner-city neighborhoods. Rather, violence by and against youth is affecting nearly all young people across the country and its impact on youth and their communities is devastating and longlasting.
In addition to the demand for solid, structured violence prevention materials, there is an equal need for services to support students who are witnessing, experiencing, and otherwise being affected by violence. Teachers, school administrators, and others who work with youth have observed a vicious cycle: Young people who have been victimized often end up engaged in violence again, both as perpetrators and victims. Research has validated these observations and demonstrated that childhood victimization significantly increases the likelihood of future criminal behavior. Furthermore, victims and witnesses of violence experience a wide range of emotions, including helplessness, vulnerability, fear, anger, and self-blame. Young people may not understand the range of emotions they are experiencing or may lack the words to express them and, therefore, will often act out the experience. The victim may, in turn, victimize someone else and thus act out the cycle of violence in the process.
This bulletin describes Safe Harbor, a promising practice that addresses both violence prevention and victim assistance in school-based settings. It also discusses the demographic and implementation differences in the school sites that are replicating the program and evaluations of the programs effectiveness.