As we work on solutions to community violence, it is important to remember that current events are only the most recent causes of stress. The stress of abuse and violence that we experience or witness replays in our brains and still lives in our bodies. Over the past several years, more and more people are becoming aware of the effects of trauma and violence on individuals. In the mid-1990s, Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began a large study. Researchers looked at the effects of bad events from childhood (called “adverse childhood experiences” or ACEs) on people’s health and well-being. These adversities include childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, violence between parents and parental separation or divorce. They also include living with household members who were using substances, suffering from mental illness or in prison. This research showed two important points. The first is that ACEs are common. About two-thirds of adults report experiencing at least one ACE. The second is that the more ACEs a person has experienced, the higher his or her risk for developing serious health problems as an adult. Some of these health problems include sexually transmitted infections, obesity and depression. The ACE study did not include the effects of poverty, racism, homophobia, historical oppression and other inequalities. These are also forms of trauma and contribute to poor health. Strengthening our communities and confronting these social inequalities are an important part of healing and becoming a trauma-informed community.
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