Getting at the Roots of Trauma

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When violence and mental illness stem from adverse childhood experiences.

Eddie Bocanegra grew up in Chicago’s mostly Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood in the 1980s and early 1990s, at a time when violent crime was peaking nationally and locally, with nearly 1,000 murders per year in the city of Chicago. His world was rocked by domestic violence at home, constant fighting among his neighbors and their parents, bullying in school and street violence among gangs in the evening.

Then, at 13, one afternoon while on his way to a baseball game, he saw someone shot multiple times and killed.

“The following year, I got involved in a street gang, both for protection and identity,” Bocanegra said. “The gangs — believe it or not — they do contribute to people’s identity in terms of a sense of belonging. Being part of a gang gave me a voice. Because I was part of this big group, nobody would mess with my home, and more importantly, because I was the oldest of five, nobody would mess with my siblings.”

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