Young violence survivors tell Illinois task force how programs that help with trauma make them safer

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois state legislature's Public Safety and Anti-Violence Task Force heard three hours of testimony Thursday about how programs that help youth deal with trauma also make them safer.

Tree Brown, 28, was shot and paralyzed in 2012, and now works as a youth leader with Communities United. He testified about how he narrowly survived dark thoughts of revenge and a suicide attempt after his shooting.

"You walk around with a constant, 'Someone could get me, someone could get me,' mindset. It's very detrimental to the safety of the public and safety to yourself," Brown said.

He said helping others is one of the way he heals his own trauma, and he wants to see more survivors of trauma step up.

"I feel like therapists help but if they don't have the lived experience, they can only get so hard," Brown said. "You can't help me not want to get revenge if you've never had to forgive someone and not choose revenge."

Indya Pinkard, 19, participates in Communities United programs and said instead of restricting youth activities downtown, there should be more offered - including mental health support.

"We don't have people we can talk to about our problems," she said. "We do want to enjoy our lives. We shouldn't have to live in fear."

"People are getting shot, people are getting carjacked but we deploy that help, that mental health support, for that trauma. We have to make sure we have a rapid response to these communities," said Illinois Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th District).

Taskforce members will take what they heard to consider which programs might best increase the number of people who can offer support directly to young people, particularly those who can relate to surviving trauma.
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