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Changing the narrative about men who commit violent crimes to promote trauma-informed shifts in policy and practice.

There is a vast yet largely invisible population of men and boys for whom healing can be a pathway to life change.

Adversity in childhood takes many forms: neglect, emotional abuse, physical assault, severe bullying; witnessing violence at home and in the surrounding community; and the many ways systemic inequality and oppression manifest in a person’s life. Especially when compounded and unaddressed—a common experience among boys of color—these traumatic early life experiences can have lingering negative effects that dramatically alter the course of their lives. One unfortunate outcome is an increased risk of exhibiting the kind of violence and behavior they were saturated with early in life.

The Research & Action Center at Impact Justice is conducting research nationally with formerly incarcerated men to better understand the prevalence and nature of early life trauma and pathways to healing. Building on prior studies, this research is geared not only to the clarify the problem but also to unlock resources and promote trauma-informed shifts in policy and practice grounded in the knowledge that healing opens doors to positive life change for boys and men.

Given the urgency of the issue, we’re sharing preliminary findings as the study unfolds. Growing Up with Violence, the first in a series of research-in-progress briefs, presents what we’re learning about exposure to violence and lack of social and emotional support for young people under threat and stress. Subsequent briefs will explore sources of early life trauma beyond violence, repercussions of trauma on youth development, the link between healing and accountability, and challenges and benefits of the participatory, community-based approach we’re using in this research.