Tomorrow's HOPE

Disrupting the cycle of intergenerational violence

Camp HOPE, at first glance, is just like any other summer camp. Kids ages 7 to 17 come for one week in the summer, partaking in traditional camp activities like canoeing, rope climbing, and playing games. 

But all of the kids share one thing in common: they have been exposed to domestic violence.

Intergenerational violence

In 2019 alone, 15,809 children in Oklahoma were confirmed as victims of abuse, neglect, or both.

While this number is startlingly high, it still fails to account for children impacted through other types of exposure to abuse, violence, or other traumatic experiences in the household. And there are likely many cases that are left unreported.  With few outlets outside the home, this abuse is left to become the norm in their lives.

This interactive map displays child abuse and neglect confirmations by county in Oklahoma from 2009 – 2019.

Children who are victims of abuse or neglect are at a higher risk of suffering intimate partner violence, or perpetrating domestic violence later in life. This cycle is often referred to as intergenerational violence.

Many programs across the nation work to interrupt this cycle by empowering youth who have been exposed to domestic violence. This empowerment looks different in every program. Here in Tulsa, Camp HOPE works to provide an escape from the adult responsibilities placed on children’s shoulders.


Camp HOPE provides an opportunity for their campers to build self-confidence in a supportive community and have fun throughout.

Alongside their camp activities, kids are brought through HOPE curriculum specifically designed to show campers that their future can be better than the past, and they have a way to make that happen. This curriculum is based on hope theory, which emphasizes the perceived capability to derive pathways to desired goals.

Campers work on setting attainable goals, and many come to realize they are capable of achieving what they want. Helping these kids plan for a violence-free future is a critical step in their development.

Since intergenerational violence is cyclical, the end can be just as hard to find as how it began. Survivors often struggle with their mental health, sometimes dealing with anxiety, depression, and PTSD beginning at a young age.

Without proper support, the likelihood these conditions manifest in continuing the cycle of violence is high. HOPE curriculum is one intervention to stop the cycle early in its tracks.

In 2019 alone, 15,809 children in Oklahoma were confirmed as victims of abuse, neglect, or both.

After attending for one summer, campers are invited back every year afterwards until they turn 18, at no cost, so they always have a trusted space to return to.

But the community building does not necessarily stop at adulthood; campers can choose to return as volunteer mentors or paid staff. Counselors play an integral role in facilitating this community-based intervention. Through observations, counselors evaluate children’s character strengths throughout the week, on traits like hope, zest, grit, self-control, and optimism. From the beginning of the week until the end, all of these character strength measures increase significantly.

Not only do the counselors notice the differences, the campers themselves do too. Both self-reported hope and resiliency of campers have been shown to increase from before the camp, to after the week. And, these scores are shown to still increase when measured again at the 30-day follow-up.

These results show a promising outlook on Camp HOPE as a method to increase hope and resilience in its campers.

HOPE for tomorrow

Even though Camp HOPE marks a great step forward in disrupting the cycle of domestic violence present in Oklahoma, it is not an all-encompassing solution. Nor should it be.

Children exposed to domestic violence benefit greatly from interventions that extend over the long-term. We must step up and do our part at providing resources and sanctuary within our community, beginning with steps like these:

Tackling the psychosocial elements of intergenerational violence is challenging, but with community resources like Camp HOPE and other intervention strategies, Oklahoma is on its way to ending the cycle.

This analysis was created in partnership with the Family Safety Center. To learn more about their work, please visit their website at

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