Youth Violence, Resilience, and Rehabilitation

Youth Violence, Resilience, and Rehabilitation

Youth Violence, Resilience, and Rehabilitation

Youth Violence, Resilience, and Rehabilitation


Joan Serra Hoffman received her Ph.D. in Health and Social Policy from the Heller School at Brandeis University. She has been working in the field of violence prevention in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America for over 15 years. Her research and program interests include youth rehabilitation, youth and community development, and comparative and crossnational urban and youth violence prevention issues


When I woke up from being shot, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move,
I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t breathe without the help of a
machine. In fact, for the first six months, I couldn’t communicate
with anyone at all. All I could do was lie there and think. You
hear gang members say all the time, “I’m not afraid to die.” But
let me tell you, when you are lying there gasping for air, bleeding,
going into shock, rushing toward death, all that hard core is gone
and all that is left is fear.

As for me, I had to learn to forgive. I had to let go of my anger
toward the person who shot me, or it would have soured my life.
Once I got over that boulder, I felt there was so much more that I
could accomplish in rehabilitation, spiritually, mentally, and
socially in my life.

—José, age 20, shot at age 17

This study emerged from a relationship with a group of young people with whom I worked as a youth worker/community organizer for city public health and hospitals departments over a six-year period, from 1990-1996. The young people whose collective experience forms the basis of the questions asked in this work were referred to programs in Boston and Los Angeles by pediatric, adolescent health, and rehabilitation practitioners, the juvenile justice system, and by other youth, as they voluntarily sought to “learn to control their anger” and achieve a “positive life.” Referred because of health and criminal justice problems due to assaultive behavior, these young people had experienced many types of violence. They had encountered physical, sexual and domestic abuse, both at home and in institutions ostensibly designed to protect them. They had suffered economic, environmental, and institutional violence in the form of resource-deprived and run-down neighborhoods and schools. They had been discriminated against, and, in . . .

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