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Adverse Childhood Experience and the Perpetuation of Violence

October 1, 2010

The Anchorage Daily News reported today on a survey conducted by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center on violence against women in Alaska. Those of us who work in the Alaska Native/American Indian community are not surprised at the results. According to the report, 59% of women surveyed had been assaulted by a partner or sexually abused in their life. The rate is higher in Indian Country. And the shocking fact is that, according to at least one study, 70% of the violence and sexual assault against Indian women is perpetrated by men of other races. [i]

As I have written about before, sexual violence against women is not some hidden fact. My biggest surprise in the article is that a Colonel in the Alaska State Troopers happens to be shocked by the numbers. The Adverse Childhood Experience Study found that 26% of the women it surveyed has suffered sexual abuse during their life. The same study found that 16% of the men surveyed had also suffered sexual abuse. Of course, UAA Justice Center didn’t want to study men, that kind of research just doesn’t seem to attract research funding.

What’s not shocking is that the politicians quoted (except for Ms. Benson) will be seeking more money from the Legislature to investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. So, something like 145,000 perpetrators would be sent to jail in the perfect world of prosecution. At $45,000 a year just for incarceration costs, what kind of impact would that be on the State of Alaska ($6,525,000,000). Now I realize that this argument is Reductio ad absurdum. When will the State recognize this and dig down to the root cause of all of this violence and attack it there.

There are direct correlated links between the number of Adverse Childhood Experiences suffered by a child and their future propensity for violence. The following study abstract explains this relationship. We need to prevent the development of violent behaviors, not intervene after it has already happened. As the abstract points out, every ACE experienced by a child increases their propensity for violence.

Adolescent violence perpetration: associations with multiple types of adverse childhood experiences.

Pediatrics.  2010; 125(4):e778-86 (ISSN: 1098-4275)

Duke NN; Pettingell SL; McMorris BJ; Borowsky IW
Center for Adolescent Nursing, School of Nursing, Division of Academic General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, 5-140 Weaver-Densford Hall, 308 Harvard St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. duke0028@umn.edu

OBJECTIVE: Adverse childhood experiences are associated with significant functional impairment and life lost in adolescence and adulthood. This study identified relationships between multiple types of adverse events and distinct categories of adolescent violence perpetration.

METHODS: Data are from 136 549 students in the 6th, 9th, and 12th grades who responded to the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey, an anonymous, self-report survey examining youth health behaviors and perceptions, characteristics of primary socializing domains, and youth engagement. Linear and logistic regression models were used to determine if 6 types of adverse experiences including physical abuse, sexual abuse by family and/or other persons, witnessing abuse, and household dysfunction caused by family alcohol and/or drug use were significantly associated with risk of adolescent violence perpetration after adjustment for demographic covariates. An adverse-events score was entered into regression models to test for a dose-response relationship between the event score and violence outcomes. All analyses were stratified according to gender. RESULTS: More than 1 in 4 youth (28.9%) reported at least 1 adverse childhood experience. The most commonly reported adverse experience was alcohol abuse by a household family member that caused problems. Each type of adverse childhood experience was significantly associated with adolescent interpersonal violence perpetration (delinquency, bullying, physical fighting, dating violence, weapon-carrying on school property) and self-directed violence (self-mutilatory behavior, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt). For each additional type of adverse event reported by youth, the risk of violence perpetration increased 35% to 144%. CONCLUSIONS: Multiple types of adverse childhood experiences should be considered as risk factors for a spectrum of violence-related outcomes during adolescence. Providers and advocates should be aware of the interrelatedness and cumulative impact of adverse-event types. Study findings support broadening the current discourse on types of adverse events when considering pathways from child maltreatment to adolescent perpetration of delinquent and violent outcomes.

As I have explained in past blogs, I believe our State’s direction must include various types of interventions. The criminal prosecution option leads to substantially increased costs, both direct and indirect, to the citizens of our state. And as I blogged about before, incarceration just adds additional ACE’s to a new generation that will need to be dealt with.


[i] Sexual Assault in Indian Country – Confronting Sexual Violence

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2010 10:47 PM

    hello!This was a really brilliant blog!
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  2. October 7, 2010 11:37 AM

    Thank you..really informative!!

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