Youth violence is a global public health problem. It includes a range of acts from bullying and physical fighting, to more severe sexual and physical assault to homicide.

Porto San Giorgio is an Italian town that lies along the Adriatic Sea. It has a population of 16,000. It is my family’s home. It is where my two sons were born and raised. In recent years youth violence has escalated and nothing is being done to stop this dramatic social problem.

Just over a week ago, on July 29th, an annual summer event took place in our town. It’s called “La Notte Rosa” (Pink Night). During the event shops, bars and restaurants stay open all night. This means people, a lot of people, crowds of people.

Three young adults ended up in emergency at the hospital that night. One of them was stabbed. All three are my son’s friends. They had decided to meet to go dancing once my son finished his part-time summer job shift at a local bistro. They were waiting in line outside one of the town’s beach chalets. My son had arrived 10 minutes earlier and was already inside. He was talking with a few other people when a young girl he knew tapped him on the shoulder and said: “Look, I hate to tell you this but your friend was just stabbed in the abdomen”.

My son happens to be a Blu Cross volunteer. In Italy, there is no such thing as a paramedic. Volunteers take courses and become ambulance EMTs (emergency medical technicians). In other words, they are qualified rescuers who intervene alongside of doctors and nurses. Not in his wildest dreams could he ever have thought of having to use his skills to rescue one of his best friends, someone he grew up with, played with, and went to school with. I’m writing this to debunk the misconception that: “Young people are all alike”. It’s not true. Youth is not bad. Part of youth turns bad, but there are reasons for this.

I’m going to call my son “D”. D came home at 6:30 A.M. from emergency. He was pale and broke down into tears. We all did. Fortunately, all of D’s friends were alive. This time, the damage was not unrepairable. Although more than a week has passed we are still under shock. It’s hard to fathom that something so awful could happen to a friend, to someone we care about and are so close to. These are the kind of things we read about in newspapers. We never really think or believe they can happen to us or to someone we love. Yet, here we are thanking our lucky stars that our children are alive. But is it right to be forced to put our children’s lives in fate’s hands? No, it’s not right, at all. Our society, our communities are pleading for help. They are pleading with us to reflect and act to stop the cancer of violence from spreading among youth. Everyone is responsible for coming together and finding solutions to prevent youth violence from taking over, from robbing our kids of their right to live a normal, healthy childhood and adolescence. All of us, within our knowledge and competencies, need to do all that is necessary to restore the fundamental values by which a healthy social environment is made up of. Values such as love, honesty, respect, and equality. We cannot let ourselves become accustomed to this kind of news. Our children are the most precious thing on this planet. They are the ones who will inherit this Earth. We cannot leave them wandering in the dark. Every single child matters.

“It takes a village to raise a child”

It’s been eleven days since D’s friend was stabbed. My husband and I are now terrified every time our sons go out in the evening to do things that we all enjoyed doing when we were young. We start breathing again when we hear them come home, when we know that nothing or nobody is going to harm them. Every time we hear an ambulance go by we call them to make sure they are ok. Two nights ago I couldn’t sleep. I was sitting on the terrace gazing at the stars, waiting for D to come home. I asked myself: how can this be freedom? How can this be a democracy?

We don’t want to cry over spilled milk. We don’t want to receive a phone call from the police in the middle of the night telling us our sons have been hurt or killed. This is absurd and unacceptable. We want to do something about it, to help everyone live serenely and in peace.

What can we do?