ACEs and the Oscars

When Will Smith assaulted Chris Rock at the Academy Awards ceremony, the U.S. television audience didn’t see it. The network censored the physical and verbal attacks and part of Smith’s acceptance speech. Anyone with an Internet connection, however, could see clips posted on Twitter within minutes from other countries where the broadcast ran in its entirety.

The blizzard of hot takes on the incident kept social media posts trending, always accompanied by an embedded video of the raw footage so readers could study it even more closely. It brought back memories of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Superbowl halftime show, exposing a nipple ring.

This time, however, no outrage from Congressional Republicans on the decline of America’s values and how we need to protect our children from seeing this behavior. Perhaps because Americans routinely normalize witnessing and experiencing physical violence.

Smith has written and spoken about his abusive father and generally rough childhood experiences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a robust website devoted to research on Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs).

For a definition of ACEs and the impacts on the individual and society, see this infographic.

The CDC has a number of videos about ACEs available on YouTube. We Can Prevent ACEs is an animated video telling the story of a young man reflecting on his youth and how his life is better now due to enlightened adult intervention on multiple levels. It’s a good example of storytelling to make statistics relatable.

How do you know if you have ACEs? This quick questionnaire from the ACEs Too High website are the top ten adverse events linked to health issues in adults. The CDC hosts the longer questionnaire adapted from the original longitudinal study.

Prior to your 18th birthday:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  7. Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
    No__ If Yes, enter 1 __

Now add up your “Yes” answers: __ This is your ACE Score

There are Positive Childhood Events as well that help reduce the toxicity of ACEs. The Aces Too High website also includes these factors on the ACEs quiz page.

How much or how often during your childhood did you:

  1. Feel able to talk to your family about feelings.
  2. Feel your family stood by you during difficult times.
  3. Enjoy participating in community traditions.
  4. Feel a sense of belonging in high school.
  5. Feel supported by friends.
  6. Have at least two non-parent adults who took genuine interest in you.
  7. Feel safe and protected by an adult in your home.

The CDC has embarked on an evidence-based campaign to reduce violence and other ACEs. For details, see their document, Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Technical Package for Policy, Norm, and Programmatic Activities.

Here is their infographic summarizing strategies to reduce child abuse and neglect.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

These strategies were part of President Biden’s State of the Union speech and in the Build Back Better package.

As part of their Veto Violence campaign, the CDC has freely available training videos on how individuals can help prevent ACEs in their family and community.

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