Meet Chedaya, who recovered from a violent assault with help from a team at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Violence is a public health epidemic in our country. Every year, hundreds of thousands of injured youth ages 10 to 24 are cared for in emergency departments across the country due to violence. The health and psychosocial consequences can last long after the violence occurs.
The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) at CHOP is an evidence-based effort to protect youth from violence. The program strives to reduce the incidence and impact of aggression on children and families in our community through educational programming in schools and the community, screening for risk in clinical settings, and direct casework with injured youth and their family members. It has become a national and global model for hospital-based and community-delivered violence prevention.
Violence Prevention Initiative: Chedaya's Story
Chedaya: I was in school and this girl kept harassing me, saying, “Give me your sneakers; give me your sneakers.”
Laura Vega, MSW, LSW: She was kind of coerced to go to a playground after school. And she didn’t want to back down, but she wasn’t a fighter. And so, she went to the playground and she was assaulted.
Chedaya: That day, the day I was jumped, she said she wanted to fight me and I said, “I’m not fighting you over my sneakers.” Then, her and her cousin just started hitting on me. They pulled some of my braids out. After it happened, I went back to the school and I just wanted to call my mom and go home.
Catina: So, as my friend and I walked into the school building, Chedaya wasn’t nowhere to be found. And they called to the classroom, and she was escorted by a teacher. And she walked in, I instantly said, “That’s not my daughter.” And she just looked at me and she just said, “Mom.” And I just stood there and I looked at here.
And I asked, “Where was her braids? What happened to her?” She had a lot of scalp injuries, you know, because when they pulled the braids out, they pulled chunks of hair away from the root. They was banging her head on the ground, you know, as they was pulling the braids out.
I took her to Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. They had a social worker come in and speak to me because my daughter was traumatized and me as well, you know, because school’s supposed to be a safety place for the children.
Joel A. Fein, MD: Lack of safety, lack of personal safety, is probably the most stressful thing that somebody can experience. A lot of kids live in parts of the city where violence is part of the landscape, unfortunately. And they don’t necessarily feel safe in places where kids deserve to feel safe.
Catina: Ms. Laura came to the house; she met us and was able to talk to Chedaya.
Laura Vega, MSW, LSW: The VIP program is a group of doctors, social workers and psychologists who work with youth who come into the Emergency Department or the Trauma Unit after a violent injury.
Chedaya: Ms. Laura got me involved in a peer support group and it helped me a lot.
Laura Vega, MSW, LSW: These groups really focus on the mind-body connection and having youth understand how stress and trauma can affect their bodies.
Chedaya: I just felt safe because nobody would judge me. They want to talk about everything. They want to make sure you’re all good. They make sure you’re OK. So, in the future, you’ll be OK and successful.
Laura Vega, MSW, LSW: We also were able to connect Chedaya with some trauma-focused therapy, which I think did a tremendous amount of healing for her.
Chedaya: I just wanted to erase the memory of it, of everything that happened. And I try to act like, many a times, that nothing ever happened. My counselor told me about doing it is not helping me. It’s just holding stuff in, and then if something like triggers me; then it’s all going to come out and that’s not good.
Laura Vega, MSW, LSW: Often, when violence occurs, adolescents don’t want to share a lot with their parents. And this intervention really helps the parent know what the child is experiencing, and it builds an open communication between them about what’s happening so that the parent can better support their child through this event.
Catina: After the incident, she put me behind a thin line; nobody could cross that thin line. She wasn’t doing it towards me intentionally, but because what she went through. All of that trauma that bundled up, the shutting down, VIP helped me to get back under — open it back up and rebuild.
Laura Vega, MSW, LSW: For so many of our kids, it’s not just this one experience, but it’s the cycle of adversity. These kids require so many resources and so many programs to really look at them holistically and really help them along the process of healing.
We know from some of the resources that support the work that we do, that once a child or a youth is a victim of violence, there’s the cycle of violence that continues. And so, if we don’t make attempts at early intervention and intervening to interrupt the cycle of violence, there’s going to be more people perpetuating the violence.
Through our program and through the groups and through her hard work and therapy, Chedaya really understands now there are so many options, that she has an ability to assert herself and her needs, and deal with things in non-violent ways.
Joel A. Fein, MD: Kids want to be safe. They want to feel safe; they want to move on with their lives. There’s no better way of doing that than joining with them and their family to create this positive model for them.
Catina: This whole transformation is amazing.
Chedaya: I’m better than where I was, a lot better, because I have more people I can trust, and I feel like I could talk to my mom about anything now.