From a Violent Childhood to the MLB: Joe Torre on Need to Reduce Children’s Exposure to Violence

by Liz Wu

Baseball fans know Joe Torre as a former MLB catcher and MLB manager. But they may know not that he was exposed to violence as a child, an experience that played a major role in shaping his life. He recently wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald, explaining why preventing children’s exposure to violence is so important to him.

He writes:

I was the youngest of five kids who grew up in an abusive home. My father, a New York City police officer, physically abused my mother and emotionally abused us all. My older siblings protected me from the violence, but they couldn’t shield me from the fear. Baseball became my shelter — the place to which I escaped to feel safe.

I didn’t know until decades later how much the way I felt about myself had been shaped by that fear. More than just fear, though, I felt shame, as well. As a kid, I was embarrassed by the belief that my house was the only one where things like this were happening. I worried that I had done something to cause the problem, and felt ashamed that I couldn’t stop it. As an adult, it took counseling for me to see myself as the innocent child I really had been, and to understand how deeply the violence I had witnessed affected me.

Because of these traumatic experiences, Joe and his wife founded the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which provides education and safe rooms in middle schools for kids caught in an abusive environment. Joe also serves as co-chair of Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, which is part of the DOJ’s Defending Childhood Initiative.

The Task Force recently held a 3-day hearing in Miami to learn about how mayors across the country are interrupting the cycle of violence in their cities. 

From the press release:

During the Miami hearing, task force members heard testimony from witnesses including Roy Martin, Program Manager for the Partnership Advancing Community Together (PACT), which is part of the Boston Health Commission. Martin told the task force that “I come from a family where every male relative old enough to go to jail or prison has gone, including me.” Martin noted that he was once a member of the population he serves, which offers unique strengths in relating to the needs of the community. In addition, Mayor Dwight C. Jones of Richmond, Va., described the faith community as “an underutilized resource—a franchise with a location on every corner.” He also noted that in Richmond, the city is focusing on efforts that emphasize and strengthen healthy parent-child relationships and children’s sense of self-esteem and abilities.

“Protecting our nation’s children and youth from violence is an urgent priority for us here in Florida and across the country,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.“Whether as victims or witnesses, children’s exposure to violence often leads to long-term physical, psychological and emotional harm – as well as higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior later in life. By working together to prevent, mitigate and treat exposure to violence, we can break this cycle, which is in the best interest of our children and our communities.”

The purpose of the task force is to identify promising practices, programming and community strategies to prevent and respond to children’s exposure to violence. After a final hearing in April in Denver, the task force will make a final report with policy recommondations for the Attorney General. 

Stay tuned for updates.


Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.

 

 

 

 

*Photo at top by Flickr user bsteve76