By Serigne Thiam
There is a public health crisis that claims the lives of thousands of children and the crisis is hidden in plain sight. Thanks to the advocacy work of Childhood Trauma Emergency Cincinnati (CTEC), the City of Cincinnati last year declared June “Childhood Crisis Awareness Month.” The crisis agency works year round with multiple levels of government to bring light to it.
Childhood Trauma Emergency Cincinnati, founded by Cincinnati native Ronald A. Hummons in 2016, has been working to educate people about what childhood trauma is, the signs of trauma, and solutions. His non-profit organization aims to address the root cause of many traumas experienced in childhood and spread awareness on the lingering effects of said trauma, particularly in minority communities. Hummons says he experienced his own physical, mental, and emotional trauma in his youth, growing up in Over-The-Rhine.
According to the National Child Trauma Stress Network, childhood trauma is caused by traumatic events, “a frightening, dangerous, or violent event that poses a threat to a child’s life or bodily integrity.” These incidents continue to have adverse effects on a child’s life and the effects continue through adulthood. Traumatic experiences can contribute to broken communities, learning problems, increased use of health and mental services, increased exposure to welfare and the juvenile justice system, long-term health problems, and increased crime. Many individuals who have experienced trauma do not fathom the depths of said trauma, nor do they realize that their actions and behaviors often are reflective of past experiences.
Childhood trauma occurs more frequently than realized. More than two-thirds of children report at least one traumatic event by age 16. Trauma is a risk factor for nearly all behavioral health and substance abuse disorders. Traumatic experiences in childhood can lead to expressions of trauma which can be both violent and emotional.
Hummons founded CTEC following the death of his son Trepierre Hummons in 2015. Trepierre spent his childhood in an abusive home, suffering from neglect, abuse, and depression. His childhood trauma culminated in a tragic occurrence on June 19, 2015 involving beloved Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim that resulted in both Kim and Hummons dying of gunshot wounds.
“This could have been prevented,” said Ron Hummons. “My son’s story is the story of millions.” While Ron abhors the actions of his son, he stresses that he worked for years with Hamilton County Jobs & Family Services to obtain custody of his child when he became aware of the physical abuse, but was unable to gain custody. Since his son’s death, Hummons has worked with CTEC to heal minority communities holistically.
To address the national public health crisis, representatives of CTEC asked Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney to introduce a childhood trauma awareness resolution to Cincinnati City Council in 2022, and in June of that year, Mayor Aftab Pureval declared June as Childhood Trauma Awareness Month, making Cincinnati the first city to recognize the childhood trauma crisis. Hummons said CTEC’s work continues on the local and state levels.
“We don’t have movements like the 1960s civil rights movement,” Hummons said. “Our movements have been watered down to symbolism [but] we’re not pushing for symbolism, we’re pushing for real tangibles. As African Americans, we really don’t know what trauma is. Our trauma has become our normalcy.” He asks, “If we do not know what is wrong with us, how can we heal?”
CTEC has introduced HCR Bill 45 in the Ohio state legislature, which aims to have a state of emergency declared on childhood trauma. Hummons says the bill currently is in committee. Hummons and members of CTEC hope that the state declaration will make addressing childhood trauma a priority, similar to the opioid crisis.
Hummons notes that the mental health crisis is a different issue from childhood trauma. “That’s another illusion. Mental health is a cognitive issue, child trauma is a lived issue, a biological issue.”
“Adults, after experiencing neglect, trauma, depression, or abuse, grow up and are stuck in survival mode. In situations, they’ll have fight or flight responses, which is connected to the nervous system. We’re not talking about one bad day, we’re talking about a series of traumatic events.”
CTEC has proposed several initiatives to combat childhood trauma and encourage the holistic healing of all affected communities: legislation to support a limit of 55 percent of food stamp spending on unhealthy foods, Intergenerational trauma repair counseling with parents and children, and a full scale awareness campaign on the effects of trauma on the nervous system.
The large-scale upheaval on the outlook on childhood trauma has not been easy for CTEC, but the small coalition continues their mission to unite America on the crisis of trauma.
“Our movement requires real sacrifice,” Hummons says. “Trauma is a radical issue and it deserves a radical response.”