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Working to Prevent Youth Violence in the Community


An estimated 15.5 million children in the United States grow up in a home where there’s intimate partner violence. Locally, work is being done to make a difference for youth who may be at risk of the repercussions of this violence.

CHI Franciscan’s Violence Prevention Initiative

“CHI Franciscan’s Violence Prevention Initiative began in 2012 and treats violence as a public health issue focused on reducing youth violence in South King County,” explained Deborah Warren on behalf of the program.  “By promoting a culture of respect and nonviolence with children and youth at an early age, the initiative hopes to prevent future violent behavior.”


The Violence Prevention Initiative “works with community partners to create enriching afterschool activities, builds social and emotional skills for students,” said Warren.  “[It] creates new programs that reduce violence in schools and the community. The program directly engages with those who are working to reduce violence or are directly impacted by violence, including youth, school leaders, community organizations and elected officials.”

The Impact of Domestic Abuse

Kellie Rogers with Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN) explained that “domestic violence impacts youth in various ways. First, they themselves can be victims of domestic violence in their love relationships. The tactics that youth survivors experience can look different than what adults experience. For example, there is a lot more use of social media and the use of humiliation with peers.  Youth often won’t share their experiences with their parents or trusted adults because of shame and they don’t want their parents to restrict their freedom.”

“Youth are also at risk when they are witnessing the abuse of their parents. There are physical, social, emotional, and cognitive impacts,” continued Rogers.  “According to the leading researcher on the impacts of domestic violence on children, Dr. Jeffery Edelson, the biggest injury to children is the intentional undermining of the relationship between themselves and their non-abusive parent. The best way to increase resiliency for children who have experienced domestic violence is to strengthen the bond between themselves and their non-abusive parent.


Rogers shared “the most common way that children (and in particular teens) are injured when there is domestic violence is because they were trying to protect their abused parent.”  According to a 2002 study by Alexander Graves, “63% of boys between the ages of 11 and 20 who are incarcerated for homicide were convicted of an offense involving the killing of their mother’s batterer.”

Working to Stop the Cycle

Violence Prevention Initiative Coordinator Cynthia Ricks-Maccotan explained that the focus of the Federal Way Domestic Violence Taskforce, which works with the Violence Prevention Initiative, “prevention, safety, awareness, and accountability, through collaboration between service providers, government and community-based organizations.”

Some of the Federal Way community partners involved in the prevention initiative include Federal Way Public Schools, the City of Federal Way, Communities In Schools, Federal Way Youth Action Team, Progress Pushers, Brown Girls Write, Phenomenal She, Multi-Service Center, Game of Life, and Good Shepard Youth Outreach.  “We all work together to address youth violence and ensure youth thrive,” said Ricks-Maccotan.


Ricks-Maccotan spoke to the impact that the initiative is already having within the Federal Way community.  “There are several new programs serving youth in Federal Way that we started or expanded due to support from the CHI Franciscan Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, especially the number of programs that focus on youth with multiple barriers to success.  We are actively working with the City of Federal Way and Federal Way Public Schools to advocate and promote more opportunities for youth.  We recently helped the city receive state funding for after school programs and are supporting the school district to roll out social/emotional learning at all elementary schools.”

For Ricks-Maccotan success for the Violence Prevention Initiative is measured by “juvenile arrests in the City of Federal Way and incidents of dangerous behaviors in Federal Way elementary schools.  There has been a 33% decrease in juvenile arrests since 2016, which we see as a huge success story in our community.”

Preventing Domestic Abuse in Teens

Youth in an abusive relationship or that need intervention may not be obvious.  The signs may be subtle.  “People who are abusive to their partners believe that they have the right to control their partner, that their behaviors are justified,” explained Rogers.  “[They believe] that their partner is to blame for all of the problems in their relationship. Some signs could include:

  • The teen’s partner demands that they “run things by them” first
  • Demands passwords to email/social media/smartphones
  • Pressures them to do things they are uncomfortable with
  • Makes them feel guilty
  • Wants to be together all of the time and expresses frustration when there are other plans
  • Incessant calling/texting
  • The teen loses interest in what they once enjoyed
  • The teen becomes increasingly secretive
  • They no longer spend time with their friends
  • The teen has injuries with explanations that seem unlikely

If you ever see any of these signs, check-in and have a conversation with that person.  Make sure they know you are a safe place to go and you are there to support them.  We asked about how to support someone in an abusive relationship, find out here.

Just because an individual doesn’t have children does not mean they can’t be involved in youth violence prevention and domestic abuse prevention.  “There are many organizations that help mentor youth, both in school and in community settings.  If working directly with youth isn’t your passion, then get involved with organizations on the back end, such as attending task force meetings, helping advocate or providing funding support for programs helping keep our youth safe.”



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