Oprah is tirelessly working to get people to pay attention to this life-changing issue.

Childhood bullying is an epidemic in this country. Around 28% of students experience it first hand, and nearly 70% witness it happen.

When we hear about it, we feel sympathy for the kids being bullied, as we should, but don't often give this care and consideration to the perpetrators. Instead, our gut reaction is to ask questions.

"Why did they do this?"


"What is wrong with them?"

"What did the parents do/not do?"

But if we hope to improve the mental health of our children, the adults they become, and the communities that raise them, we need to ask better questions. Journalist, philanthropist, and TV legend Oprah Winfrey wants to help people get there by examining the role of childhood trauma.

"This story is so important to me and I believe to our culture that if I could dance on the tabletops right now to get people to pay attention to it, I would," she said on "CBS This Morning."

Trauma is the emotional response to a distressing event, including but not limited to violence, sexual assault or abuse, a natural disaster, or an accident.

The heightened emotional response can occur immediately after the event, (think the shock or denial that may occur after getting mugged), but it can also continue months or years later. Survivors may have uncomfortable flashbacks, confusion, anxiety, or feel withdrawn. The symptoms can also be physical, with nightmares, racing heartbeats, muscle tension, and fatigue. Trauma can literally take over your body and mind, and its effects can be magnified in children.

Photo by Duane Prokop/Getty Images for Feeding America.

In a report for "60 Minutes" Oprah sat down with Dr. Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist and expert on childhood trauma.

Perry revealed that adverse or distressing events in a child's early development, can increase their chances of social, mental, and physical problems later in life.

"That very same sensitivity that makes you able to learn language just like that, as a little infant, makes you highly vulnerable to chaos, threat, inconsistency, unpredictability, violence," Perry told Winfrey. "And so children are much more sensitive to developmental trauma than adults."

Bruce D. Perry, M.D. PhD. Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

Since trauma can stem not just from single events, but from living in stressful environments, children in these situations may be wired differently than those living in consistent, nurturing, predictable homes.

Perry says children living in chaos and unpredictability (think residing in areas with a lot of crime, growing up food insecure, or with parents who are struggling with addiction) are at much higher rates of risk for academic trouble and potential mental health problems.  

"If you have developmental trauma, the truth is you're going to be at risk for almost any kind of physical health, mental health, social health problem that you can think of," Perry said.

"If you don't fix the hole in the soul ... you're working at the wrong thing."

Trauma-informed care is one approach to tackling this issue.

Trauma-informed care means taking into account a person's trauma and the coping mechanisms they've been using when educating or treating someone. This might look like a school environment where open communication, empathy, and sensitivity to how other people are feeling are top priorities, not just to help children cope with trauma, but to create a culture of welcoming, tolerance, and acceptance to prevent further trauma. This would also mean teachers, administrators, and support staff would be trained in direct intervention methods to support traumatized students.

After learning about the effects of developmental trauma, Winfrey reached out to the board of her school in South Africa to change the way they're approaching education.

"It has definitively changed the way I see people in the world, and it has definitively changed the way I will now be operating my school in South Africa and going forward any philanthropic efforts that I'm engaged in," she said on "CBS This Morning."

Oprah Winfrey chats with students of the first graduating class at her South African girls' academy. Photo by Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images.

If Winfrey seems especially passionate about this, it's because she experienced traumatic events as a child.

She's spoken at length about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of a relative when she was a child. And recently opened up about the spankings she received from her mother, which were common at the time, but no less distressing. Winfrey threw herself into school work and found a positive outlet, and supportive, trusted adults in her teachers. Without those role models and a positive outlet, her story may have gone a lot differently.

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

To improve our schools and communities, it's worth rethinking the notion of "bad kids," or "bad parents."

Instead of asking "What is wrong with them?" take a step back and consider the role childhood trauma may have played in their upbringing. Asking, "What have they seen or experienced?," and "Who was there to help them through that experience?" may provide some insight. Trauma doesn't negate their misbehavior, but it may provide the empathy and understanding they desperately need to change their ways.

"If you don't fix the hole in the soul, the thing that is where the wounds started, you're working at the wrong thing."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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