Local psychotherapists urge talking to kids after weekend violence

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 6:17 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Following two separate shootings in the Peoria area, local psychological experts discuss the importance of addressing community violence with children and young adults.

Peoria Police said there are no updates on the two incidents.

The first occurred just before 8:30 p.m. Saturday on Northeast Madison Street in the East Bluff neighborhood. One adult male was shot in the leg and he is expected to survive. The victim told police two men in masks tried to rob him before shooting him in the leg.

Hours later, just before 11 p.m., police received a 28-round shot spotter alert near the intersection of Kansas and Wisconsin Streets.

A nearby building was rented out for a juvenile birthday party. Security footage obtained by 25News shows a car park on the side of the street. Moments later, a car turns onto Wisconsin Street and starts opening fire. One juvenile male was shot and transported to the hospital in a private vehicle. He is also expected to survive.

It’s not clear if the birthday party and drive-by were related to each other, but mental health experts said violence in seemingly innocent places like this can leave a lasting impact.

“There are certain places where we didn’t use to go and cause problems,” Psychotherapist Dr. Bernice Gordon-Young said. “Church, school, certainly birthday parties. We are not even looking at the boundaries, like no boundaries, and when there are no boundaries that put us all at risk.”

Gordon-Young works with Peoria County Jail, Peoria Public Schools, and has a private practice working with people out on probation. She urges the importance of having conversations with kids and young adults about the violence in the community to keep it from being normalized.

OSF’s Strive program works with victims of violent crime, their families, and witnesses to give counseling and therapy to navigate the situation, up to ten years after the crime happens.

All therapy is free, the program is funded by grants.

The group has offices set up in some Peoria Public high schools. Supervisor Samantha Schubach said some kids don’t even recognize the trauma they’ve experienced as violent crime.

“I don’t want to say numb to it, but there are times when we will bring up, ‘hey have you experienced a violent crime’ and they will be like ‘no,’ ‘have you witnessed one?’ ‘no.’ Then I’ll hand them a list of what we consider to be violent crimes and they check off five, six, seven...” Schubach said.

Both said parents, teachers, and other adults can create safe, welcoming spaces for young people to talk about their experiences with violence. Gordon-Young tells parents that kids are already having those conversations and exposures to violence, even if it isn’t happening in the home.