Every year, the Philadelphia Coalition for Victim Advocacy holds a candle lighting to honor victims and survivors of crime in the Philadelphia area. This year the PCVA felt it especially important to incorporate a youth portion to the event. PCVA, Victim Witness Services of South Philadelphia (VWSSP), Asians American United (AAU), and youth from Science Leadership Academy (SLA) decided to reflect about what violence means to youth. Youth are impacted by violence everyday – in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our homes. Statistics show that 42% of people victimized in 2006 were under the age of 25. But I don’t want to limit this to just physical violence. It also means exposure to violence, exposure to tragedy or harassment.
VWSSP and youth at SLA did a poll earlier this month to get an overview of what types of violence young people are exposed to and how it has impacted the lives of students. It was overwhelming how many young people have been affected by violence and don’t feel safe in our communities. On the other hand in many ways violence has been completely normalized to youth. We heard young people talk about bullying like it was a rite of passage. We heard young people talking about fighting and retaliation and snitching like those were normal things.
VWSSP and myself decided to create a survey to give youth an opportunity to voice their opinions on safety, violence and their communities. Here are a couple of responses from the survey:
- “I feel as if the violence in Philadelphia has changed the way Philadelphia looks at their youth. Not all of us contribute to the crime in Philadelphia and we should not be treated as if we do. Even if it just for precaution. They think that anywhere we go there is going to be a fight or flash mob. Some of us would just like to get lunch after school without having to be in the liberty place by a certain time, or else we aren’t allowed in.”
- “I think that violence can be directly related to ignorance and the way people are being formed in this city. Not only can the lack of education affect the future generation but it has been affecting this generation greatly.”
- “Violence is not only about physical attacks but also verbal attacks. Sometimes, people internalized the violence they encountered. This is not right. No one should have the power to oppress others. To stop violence, it is important to educate people with the concept of violence and how it can affect and hurt others.”
Many people in this City talk about youth like we are the problem. We are flash mobs and gangs. I’m not saying there aren’t youth who choose violence. But more of us want to be safe and happy and learn and grow up more than want to hurt someone. We want safe places – not drama.
After doing this project, it once again proved to me how influenced youth are by everything that goes on in our city. I hope I can continue on with activities like this that give youth an outlet to voice their opinions.
Sadie Sprague-Lott is a junior at Science Leadership Academy and is interning for Parents United for Public Education this school year.