Community violence is a type of interpersonal violence which involves the actions of a person or group of people who are not directly related to the victim(s). Additionally, community violence includes the act of witnessing a violent scene, even if the witness has no direct relation to the violent act taking place.
In communities in which violence is an unfortunate reality, children grow up having been exposed to the use of weapons and physical force against individuals within their neighbourhood. This tends to be more common in neighbourhoods with a low economic standing, such as inner-city neighbourhoods or highly stressed suburban areas. It is being noted now that in some neighbourhoods, community violence is taking place between children, both verbally and non-verbally¹. Bullying has not historically been associated with community violence, but is becoming a concern in neighbourhoods in which community violence levels are high.
Dealing with community violence is difficult for everyone, but it can be especially hard for children to cope with. Children exposed to acts of violence or who are victims may become very withdrawn, have trouble making friends and find it difficult to trust others. Much research has been done on the effects that community violence can have on children and indicates that negative psychological effects are a possible reaction¹. Children exposed to violence repeatedly (either as witnesses or victims) and who are unable to seek social support from others, are at the greatest risk.
Community violence is a serious issue in some neighbourhoods. Methods for both prevention of this violence and intervention are critical for developing a solution. At the community level, intervention programs can be implemented to improve the facilities and services available in individual neighbourhoods. An intervention of this nature will hopefully help raise the quality of unsafe neighbourhoods and allow residents, both children and adults, to develop a positive outlook on their lives.