From Violence Treatment to Violence Prevention

By: Garry Lapidus, PA-C, MPH

At Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, we see the impact of community and family violence often. We treat a variety of violence-related injuries which range from an infant who was physically abused by a parent or caretaker, to a child who was sexually abused by a stranger, to a teenager who was shot on the streets during a turf dispute. Beyond treating such injuries, we are also committed to doing all we can to prevent violence.

As a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, Connecticut Children’s is a comprehensive regional resource that is a tertiary care facility central to the trauma system. A Level I Trauma Center is capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury, from prevention through rehabilitation. Many clinical departments contribute to our Trauma Center by providing care to patients after injuries have occurred, including the emergency department, the pediatric intensive care unit, and our surgical subspecialists. The Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center (IPC), which has served the community now for 25 years, plays an integral role in the Trauma Center as its prevention arm.

The IPC seeks to keep children and teenagers safe by preventing unintentional injuries, which are the leading cause of death and disability for that age group. We believe that injuries are not accidents, but rather that they are predictable and preventable. We have long recognized that intentional injury, or violence, is a leading threat to the physical and psychological health of children and their families. Two of our core focus areas, reducing teen suicide and addressing intimate partner violence, highlight our strong commitment to violence prevention.

The IPC utilizes a public health approach to understanding the causes of violence, as well as the risk factors and protective factors that influence violence perpetration or victimization. Our public health approach recognizes that the different forms of violence, which are child abuse and neglect, youth violence, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and suicidal behavior, are strongly connected to each other. Those who are victims of one type of violence are likely to experience other forms of violence.

As part of our violence prevention efforts, we are proud to play a leading role in the newly formed Children’s Center on Family Violence, which is a first in the nation program that aims to increase understanding about the impact family violence has on children and to increase support services for affected children. The program is a partnership between the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center, the Connecticut Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Program, and the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Some of our other violence prevention initiatives include:

Research:

  • Assessment of Support for Families Impacted by Violence – Through comprehensive evaluation, researchers are working to improve outcomes for families impacted by violence who are involved with the Department of Children and Families.
  • Innovative Intervention for Families Impacted by Violence – Researchers are assisting with the design and implementation of a new program with an innovative fatherhood component. Initial evidence suggests a significant reduction in abusive behaviors.
  • Influence of Maternal Violence Exposure on Prenatal and Stress-Related Genetic Risk in Newborns – Researchers are investigating the impact of maternal exposure to violence on prenatal risk factors and biological outcomes for newborn children.
  • National Violent Death Reporting System – IPC is providing staffing support to the Department of Public Health in the collection of data for a nationwide database that is vital in describing violent deaths in Connecticut.

Education & Training:

  • The Hayley Petit Injury and Violence Prevention FellowshipProvides college women the opportunity to study and learn injury and violence prevention from Connecticut Children’s faculty who are national experts in the field.
  • Intersection of Child Abuse and Animal Abuse Seminar – Expert faculty provided training on the intersection of animal cruelty and abuse/violence to police and social workers in a statewide conference.
  • Educating Practice in the Community Domestic Violence module – In an outreach program to community pediatricians, IPC faculty discuss the identification and referral of families suffering from domestic violence.

Community Outreach:

  •  Building a Culture of Healthy Relationships – In a new high school-based program funded by The Allstate Foundation, IPC staff work with high school juniors and seniors in coming to understand healthy relationships and the impact of culture on sexual violence.
  • Hartford Area Gun Buy Back Program – For eight years, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center has teamed up with the police and local area hospitals to bring attention to safe storage practices and responsible firearm ownership through an annual gun buyback program.

Public Policy:

  •  Connecticut Legislative Task Force on Family ViolenceIPC Director Garry Lapidus served as co-chair of this statewide task force charged with providing recommendations to reduce children’s exposure to violence.

During our 25 year history, the IPC has documented significant reductions in preventable injuries throughout the state. Through the IPC and our work with the Trauma Center, we see firsthand the impact that community and family violence has on children. We are committed to reducing not only the prevalence of violence in our society, but also to reducing the impact it has on all children.

Garry Lapidus, PA-C, MPH, is the director of the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center and an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at the UConn School of Medicine. 

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