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December 29, 1998

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By working together, we have already made significant progress against crime and violence in this country. I believe we are on a course to make even greater gains in the future. As long as we continue to place America's children at the center of our attention, America will remain prosperous, united, and strong well into the 21st Century.

President Bill Clinton
December 29, 1998

Today at the White House, President Clinton will launch a new Children Exposed to Violence Initiative (CEVI) designed to prevent violence against children and improve the way the justice system deals with children who are the victims of or witnesses to violence.

The Need For Action. Violence against children remains a problem in America. The Department of Health and Human Services found that in 1996, three million children were reported maltreated or abused. Recent Department of Justice statistics show that last year, 2.8 million adolescents were victims of violent crime and another 9 million witnessed serious violence -- with nearly 2 million of these teenagers suffering from some kind of serious post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who are abused or neglected are far more likely than other children to become criminals themselves. These children are more than 50 percent more likely to be arrested while a juvenile; nearly 40 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime when they become adults; and 33 percent more likely to become substance abusers.

A Presidential Response To Violence Against Children. President Clinton is leading the response to help reduce violence against our children. The Department of Justice will propose legislation that would: (1) amend federal homicide statutes by making child abuse offenses predicates for felony murder and defining murder to include the death of a child resulting from a pattern of child abuse; and (2) provide a sentencing enhancement whenever a violent crime prohibited by federal law is committed in the presence of a child. The Justice Department will also work with states to develop similar model legislation and put in place additional reforms to allow children to testify via closed circuit television, limit the number of interviews to which a child can be subjected, and allow children to use testimonial aids and have an adult present when testifying in court.

CEVI Will Improve And Strengthen Our Response To Violence Against Children. In addition to this proposed legislation, the CEVI will:

  • Improve The Justice System Response To This Issue. CEVI will improve the way participants in the justice system treat child victims and witnesses by providing the information and training necessary to prevent "secondary victimization." The Justice Department will use approximately $12 million in current funding to produce and distribute specialized training videos, best practice manuals, and other in-the-field user guides to law enforcement agents, prosecutors, victim and witness coordinators, and court personnel. Under this new initiative, the Justice Department also will work with state and local law enforcement to use Child Death Review Teams to investigate suspicious child fatalities; expand child victims' assistance programs; help create "Court Schools," which serve to acclimate children to the courtroom setting; and develop other similar programs.
  • Strengthen Prevention And Intervention. CEVI will assist states and localities to develop prevention and intervention initiatives focusing on children exposed to violence. These initiatives, often involving partnerships between law enforcement officers and other community members, will provide services and support to children and promote parent education. The President will announce the availability of $10 million in "Safe Start" grants to help up to 12 more cities promote and build on proven initiatives like the New Haven CD-CP, a successful partnership program between the New Haven Police Department and the Yale University Child Study Center.
  • Increase Public Awareness. The Department of Justice will sponsor a National Summit on Children Exposed to Violence in May, with the participation of Department of Health and Human Services, law enforcement organizations, child advocacy and media organizations, governors, county officials, mayors, legislators and prosecutors. The goal of the Summit will be to bring together experts in law enforcement, mental health, child development, domestic violence prevention, and related fields to increase public awareness of this issue and discuss additional ameliorative efforts.

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