Because of their age, juveniles are often more vulnerable to certain crimes. Minors may face physical or sexual abuse at home and have no way to escape or prevent the abuse and may be reluctant to report the crimes that are occurring at home. Children are increasingly likely to be the victim of offenses committed online and are particularly vulnerable to online sexual predators, who may pose as children and trick minors into sending sexually explicit photos or videos. Children who live in high crime areas face an increased exposure to violent acts and are more likely to commit these crimes and to be the victim of these offenses.
Recent studies have found that juveniles are exposed to violence and crime at a much higher rate than adults are. A 2014 study revealed that nearly 70 percent of juveniles in the United States were either exposed to violence as victims or as witnesses to violence. This type of exposure to violence at such a young age can have long-lasting repercussions for a juvenile. Being exposed to violence can lead to emotional harm, physical harm, and mental instability issues. In general, those juveniles who are exposed to violence are predisposed to have issues that include: anxiety, anger management problems, behavior issues, health problems, academic difficulty and frequent run-ins with law enforcement.
A study on children’s exposure to violence indicated that approximately 37 percent of children were victims of physical violence within the previous year. Further, about 50 percent of children involved in the study had been physically assaulted sometime in their life. Additionally, approximately 15 percent of children suffered an unidentified form of mistreatment and nearly 8 percent of all juveniles had been sexually abused sometime in their life.
The majority of juvenile victims are harmed at the hands of their own family members, caregivers, or someone they know. Approximately 90 percent of juvenile domestic violence victims are females around 16 years of age. This high rate of juvenile victims has led to those same juvenile victims becoming offenders due to a history of suffering from violence, abuse, neglect or some form of mistreatment.
Domestic and intimate partner violence among juveniles has been characterized as a “hidden epidemic” in the United States. This is considered a hidden epidemic because the definitions used by different jurisdictions in connection with domestic violence often vary. This allows offenders and victims under a certain age to avoid prosecution and penalties altogether because they have not reached the age of majority.
Another area of concern is family violence which includes sibling on sibling, child on parent, or parent on child violence. Family violence is becoming a steadily increasing problem in the United States. However, given the fact that no studies have been focused on family violence, it lacks the prevalence that other forms of violence receive. Despite a lack of voluminous amounts of data, focused studies have shown that 65 percent of college students reported experiencing some type of physical abuse from a sibling during childhood. Additionally, another study revealed that children who are physically abused at a young age are two times more likely to become physically abusive to their parents during their adolescent years. This phenomenon has such prevalence in society that it has become known as the “child abuse syndrome.” In some extreme cases, children who have been abused for such a long time end up killing their parents when they get older –finding themselves in the juvenile justice system. Due to the long-term societal effects of juvenile violence the juvenile justice system has committed a large number of resources to the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders and treatment for victims.