INDIANAPOLIS — In the last three weeks, shootings have injured at least eight juveniles across Indianapolis, with the youngest victim being just 4-years-old.
When the police lights fade and the news of another shooting moves into the headlines, children caught in gunfire across Indianapolis that survive their injuries are still left to recover both emotionally and physically.
“Unfortunately, we are talking to parents pretty much daily because their kids have been affected by this violence,” said Lisa Brown, Victim Assistance Manager for IMPD.
Brown has worked to help victims of crimes and their families for more than two decades in Indianapolis but said these types of conversations are always difficult.
“It’s heartbreaking each and every time and it’s something that you don’t get used to,” she said.
According to IMPD, at least 50 juveniles have been injured in shootings since the start of 2021 in Indianapolis. The department’s year-to-date homicide report shows at least seven juveniles have been killed in shootings.
Brown said it’s important to remember that for families who have lost their loved one in shootings, there is no such thing as closure. Her unit works to help families cope with the trauma and process their feelings.
She also works with juveniles who survive their injuries and their families and said trauma is cumulative, which is why it is critical to address the children being impacted by this violence.
“It starts with the things that have happened to us as kids and it just kind of adds from there,” Brown said.
Dr. Ashley Meagher, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Acute Care Surgery at IU Health Methodist Hospital said, “Growing up with that trauma can lead to significant effects later on in life.”
When a gunshot victim arrives to the emergency room, Meagher said the first thing on their minds is assessing the situation and saving that person’s life.
“The children that present to Riley Hospital or the young adults that present to Methodist or Eskenazi Hospital, I really try not to focus on what the events are and I really try to focus on saving that person’s life,” she said.
“The really important thing to kind of realize is that, most of the time these are just tragic events and they’re completely preventable,” said Meagher.
Meagher said many of these victims experience long-term impacts as a result of the injuries they’ve sustained.
“People don’t either just die or go home from gunshot wounds, they frequently have long-term complications. Need surgeries, have pain syndromes,”
She also said they frequently see people come to the hospital who have been shot more than once in their life.
“Being in an environment where gun violence happens is a risk factor for being in an environment where gun violence will happen again,” said Meagher. “We do see young people that come in that have bullets still lodged in their bodies and there is definite research that supports that, that kind of has a big toll.”
Meagher agreed that the trauma impacts not only the victim but their family as well.
“It’s very common that multiple people in families are shot. It’s very common that we have kind of a cycle of violence that is going on and it affects the whole community,” Meagher said.
She also shared, “Last week I had a gentleman who came in and he had been shot. He was bawling and said he couldn’t die because his brother had already died and his mom wouldn’t be able to take it.”
Brown said something she encourages among victims and their families is to seek help in the form of counseling.
“One of the things that we know is that the people that are hurting others, they themselves are hurting,” she said.
She said the more people are able to talk about their feelings and emotions, the better off they will be.
“We’ve seen survivors come out of these things and you know, start their own helping agencies and things like that. That’s something that we love to see because nobody gets it quite like somebody else that’s been through it,” she said.
“There is hope. There totally is hope and people have to hang on to that hope,” said Brown.
She said people cannot be ashamed to reach out for help. That’s what services like the ones IMPD’s Victim Assistance Unit are there for.
“I think that people have a tendency to think you know, it won’t happen to me and it won’t happen to anybody that I love,” said Brown. “I meet people every day that unfortunately have thought that and they’re kind of thrust into this new normal.”
She also has a message for those committing violent acts and causing the trauma faced by so many families.
“Honestly, I would say put down the guns. It’s not worth it. These families are impacted in a huge way, the offenders, their own families are affected,” said Brown. “It’s not just the person that is getting shot that is affected, the offenders families are affected as well. So if you’re not gonna think of anybody else, think of your own family.”
There have been more than 630 non-fatal shooting victims across the city of Indianapolis since the start of 2021, according to data obtained by FOX59.
Anyone looking for help is encouraged to contact IMPD’s Victim Assistance Unit by calling 317-327-3331.