The National Academies Press has published a book, Contagion of Violence: A Workshop Summary, based on a 2012 workshop.
The past 25 years have seen a major paradigm shift in the field of violence prevention, from the assumption that violence is inevitable to the recognition that violence is preventable. Part of this shift has occurred in thinking about why violence occurs, and where intervention points might lie.
Come back Mom and Dad
You’re growing apart; you know that I’m growing up sad
I need some attention
I shoot into the light.
- Peter Gabriel, "Family Snapshot"
Purposeless boys are dangerous.
Michael Gurian, in his book The Purpose of Boys (2010), lists some of the effects of the growing population of boys without purpose.
- For every 100 girls in public schools, 335 boys are expelled.
- The 'Boy Crisis': Is It Fictional? (ideas.time.com)
Practical ways parents and others can help children in the days, weeks, and months after traumatic events.
From the US National Institute on Mental Health.
Tips are practical and some are arranged by age groups.
An excerpt from the booklet
How Parents Can Help:
After violence or a disaster parents and family should:
- Identify and address their own feelings — this will allow them to help others
- Explain to children what happened
- Let children know:
- You love them
- The event was not their fault
- You will take care of them, but only if you can; be honest
- It’s okay for them to feel upset
- Allow children to cry
- Allow sadness
- Let children talk about feelings
- Let them write about feelings
- Let them draw pictures
- Expect children to be brave or tough
- Make children discuss the event before they are ready
- Get angry if children show strong emotions
- Get upset if they begin:
- Acting out
- If children have trouble sleeping:
- Give them extra attention
- Let them sleep with a light on
- Let them sleep in your room (for a short time)
- Try to keep normal routines (such routines may not be normal for some children):
- Bed-time stories
- Eating dinner together
- Watching TV together
- Reading books, exercising, playing games
- If you can’t keep normal routines, make new ones together
- Help children feel in control:
- Let them choose meals, if possible
- Let them pick out clothes, if possible
- Let them make some decisions for themselves, when possible.
- How to talk with children about the Connecticut shooting, other tragedies (q13fox.com)
- SAMHSA Coping with Violence and Traumatic Events (samhsa.gov)
- How to Cope With Fear After School Shootings (livescience.com)
- NAEYC Tips for Talking to Young Children (drcindysimpson.com)
- Save the Children Offers 10 Tips to Help All Children Cope (5minutesformom.com)
After reading this article a few questions come to mind.
Has this kind of violence always occurred, and is only now being studied more closely in the past?
Are more people becoming increasingly desensitized to violence through depiction in the media? and being violent (including verbally) without realizing the consequences?
Should dating be discouraged in people under 16 ? Should they be encouraged to socialize with others in the younger teen years rather than date in order to learn how to communicate, respect one another, and develop as individuals?
Do people (especially girls, young women) have too high expectations of dating? Do they expect a boy or young man to fill needs best met by families/parents?
On a related note, about a year ago I was on our courthouse grounds for a few hours. I was participating in a local peace group’s display of the cost of the Iraq war. A couple walked by, and the young man (late teens/early 20′s) was pushing the young woman he was walking with and calling her names. Although both were smiling, it seemed like it was escalating. I stepped in, not boldly, and tried to get him to stop through words. Forgot what I said. He didn’t really stop, but at least it did not get any worse.
On reflection, the relationship seemed to be based more on ownership than mutual love. So sad.
Overall, nearly two-thirds of both men and women reported some type of abuse during their teenage years, which falls in line with other studies.
But it was surprising how many teen victims had two or more abusive partners, said Amy Bonomi, lead author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.
“For about one in three teens who were abused, it wasn’t just one bad boyfriend or girlfriend. It may have been at least the start of a trend,” Bonomi said.
The same patterns were not seen in similar population-based studies of adults, who tend to report abuse by a single partner, she said….
One argument that violence researchers often hear is that behaviors like name-calling and insults aren’t serious enough to be called abuse. But that’s not true, Bonomi said.
“Studies in adults have shown that psychological abuse alone can be damaging to health,” she said. She is currently studying whether the same is true for adolescents….
Some types of dating violence tended to occur at earlier ages than others, the study found. For females reporting dating violence, controlling behavior tended to occur early, with 44 percent reporting it between the ages of 13 and 15. For males, 13 to 15 was the most common age range for the first occurrence of put-downs and name-calling (60 percent).
Pressure to have sex was more likely to start at later ages, from 16 to 17 for women.
Bonomi said it was significant that college students were reporting this level of abuse as teens.
“There’s a common belief in our society that dating violence only affects low-income and disadvantaged teens. But these results show that even relatively privileged kids, who are on their way to college, can be victims.”
The results also call for better education in our elementary schools.
“Many of these kids are getting in relationships early, by the age of 13,” Bonomi said. “We need to help them learn about healthy relationships and how to set sexual boundaries. It shouldn’t just be one class session — it needs to be a routine discussion in school.”
- Teen Dating Violence (politicalsocialworker.wordpress.com)
- What’s Behind All The Violence In America Today? (fromthetrenchesworldreport.com)
“The reality untaught in American schools and textbooks is that war — whether on a large or small scale — and domestic violence have been pervasive in American life and culture from this country’s earliest days almost 400 years ago. Violence, in varying forms,according to the leading historian of the subject, Richard Maxwell Brown, “has accompanied virtually every stage and aspect of our national experience,” and is “part of our unacknowledged (underground) value structure.” Indeed, “repeated episodes of violence going far back into our colonial past, have imprinted upon our citizens a propensity to violence.”Thus, America demonstrated a national predilection for war and domestic violence long before the 9/11 attacks, but its leaders and intellectuals through most of the last century cultivated the national self-image, a myth, of America as a moral, “peace-loving” nation which the American population seems unquestioningly to have embraced. But the Reality tells different story.”
Take dating violence, for example. Emily Rothman, associate professor at Boston University School of Public Health recently, published a study on dating violence among teenagers in December of 2010 in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. She surveyed around 1,500 students from the Boston area. Rothman found that:
… Nearly 19% of students reported physically abusing a romantic partner in the past month, including pushing, shoving, hitting, punching, kicking or choking. Nearly 43% reported verbally abusing their partner, cursing at them or calling them fat, ugly, stupid or some other insult.”
- Domestic Violence — Break the Cycle (womensphilanthropy.typepad.com)
- Campaign against teen dating violence is launched (mysanantonio.com)
- Teen dating violence: no school protocol for reporting/counseling (californiaschildren.typepad.com)
- U.S. High Schools Lax in Preventing Dating Abuse (nlm.nih.gov)
- Wear Your R-E-S-P-E-C-T (fabsugar.com)
- Most U.S. Schools Do Not Train Staff in Preventing Dating Violence Among Teens (healthychildren.org)
- Boston advises teens on how to break up _ safely (sacbee.com)
- Teenage victims of domestic violence targeted as definition is extended (guardian.co.uk)
I’ve believed for years that our country’s undue emphasis on “law and order” and punishment over addressing the root causes of crime has damaged communities and individual lives. Findings in this book reinforces my strong reservations of reacting to problems out of fear rather than building people up.
Black women in poor neighborhoods have faced increasing violence because public policy has focused on unconditional punishment, not prevention, according to a new book by a public policy expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Beth Richie, author of “Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation” (New York University Press, 2012) directs UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy.
Harsh sentencing since 2000, especially for drug trafficking, combines with gender dynamics in black neighborhoods to propel some women into violent relationships and crime, Richie says.
“I define the ‘male violence matrix’ as violence against women that has its roots in patriarchal arrangements, as well as by communities, institutions, and agencies organized around patriarchal power and male supremacy,” said Richie, who is professor of African American studies and gender and women’s studies at UIC.
Most political responses to the culture of punishment address its effect on men, Richie said.
“While the impact on men is clear, there are also significant ways that women experience the negative effects of the prison nation, especially those women who also experience gender violence.”……
- “Losing the Movement:” Black Women, Violence, And Prison Nation (racialicious.com)
- Understanding the ‘Violence Matrix’ (theroot.com)
This is one response to how to lower the high murder rate rate in Chicago (5,056 since 2001). The author believes that many victims of violence react with shock in much the same manner as soldiers with PTSD. These victims will most likely grow up angry with greater potential to use violence to solve problems unless they are worked with, much like returning soldiers from a war zone.
The Real Problem: Trauma
I spent a summer in the ER of a Level 1 trauma center in Chicago. Gunshot victims would come in, and they couldn’t believe what had happened to them. It was traumatic in the truest sense – their bodies were broken and put into shock. But their mind and spirit were as well: it was a jarring experience all around for them. But not only for them. Mothers and aunties and cousins and baby mommas were going crazy too. A light bulb turned on: This situation is traumatic for them too! They need care as well.
And so the idea of “care” was expanding from physical to psycho-spiritual, and from patient to family. Everybody involved was a victim of trauma here.
I began to look into this idea of “trauma” and found that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the result of unfettered moments of shock that continue to reside in the body: the brain and body never return to “normal,” and will erupt in erratic behavior. Think of a geyser here. Hot springs are the result of spontaneous combustion of something that happened in a river far away and a long time ago. What if this is true with humans?
We already know it is. One study on inner-city kids in Chicago showed that children who were exposed to violence or witness a violent act were much more likely to demonstrate aggressive behavior within one year of exposure. PTSD also carries symptoms of depression, which contribute to feelings of meaninglessness in self and the world (thus devaluing another human life enough to take it). This is all very scientific and I want to get to the point:
Our children are being put into shock every single day.
They are experiencing violence as perpetrator, victim, and witness, and they are no less exposed to the trauma. The trauma of being poor….
One Real Solution
Chicago has been called a “warzone” – let’s play with that a moment. Maybe the best thing a small church can do to stop the violence is work with our children like we work with our returning soldiers. (We need to do this better as well). Vets need safe space to talk. They need to give voice to experiences and be able to create new ways of understanding themselves—it’s called moving from “soldier” to “human” again.
Our children need to understand themselves not as black or poor orat-risk but as HUMAN first. They need to develop meaning to confront the meaninglessness that surrounds them. This angry and dark world is traumatic for children, and they will grow up angry and dark unless we help them process what they have seen. Finding one’s own voice is critical to meaning-making. Some of them are not soldiers, but they are all in the war.
- Embattled Childhood: The Real Trauma in PTSD (psychologicalscience.org)
- The Psychology of Resilience (psychologicalscience.org)
- Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: An Interview with David Emerson. (elephantjournal.com)
- The legacy of childhood trauma (beyondmeds.com)
- The Road to Recovery – Promoting Resiliency in First Responders, and Others Who Witness Trauma on a Regular Basis (downwindwalk.wordpress.com)
- June is National Post Traumatic Stress Month (jeanettebartha.wordpress.com)
The link to the video and additional material may be found here.
The video may be viewed in its original format (with graphic language) or the broadcast version.
On Feb. 14, FRONTLINE presents the television premiere of the award-winning documentaryThe Interrupters, the moving story of three dedicated “violence interrupters”—Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra—who, with bravado, humility and even humor, work to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they themselves once employed. Their work and their insights are informed by their own journeys, which, as each of them points out, defy easy characterization.
From acclaimed producer-director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and best-selling author-turned-producer Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here), The Interrupters is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. The New York Timessays the film “has put a face to a raging epidemic and an unforgivable American tragedy.”
The interrupters work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire, which is the brainchild of epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, who for 10 years battled the spread of cholera and AIDS in Africa. Slutkin believes that the spread of violence mimics that of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: Go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source.
Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin Films in Chicago, The Interrupters follows Ameena, Eddie and Cobe as they attempt to intervene in situations before those situations turn violent: two brothers threatening to shoot each other; an angry teenage girl just home from prison; a young man heading down a warpath of revenge. The film captures not only the interrupters’ work, but reveals their own inspired journeys from crime to hope and, ultimately, redemption. As they venture into their communities, they confront the importance of family, the noxious nature of poverty and the place of race. And they do it with incredible candor and directness.
- Frontline, tonight: The Interrupters (chicagoreader.com)
- ‘The Interrupters’: Documentary On Youth Crime Spotlights Ex-Gang Members Who Try To Prevent Violence (huffingtonpost.com)
- Must See: ‘The Interrupters,’ a film about Stoping the Violence in Chicago (clutchmagonline.com)
- ‘The Interrupters’ on Frontline on 14 February (Mixed Media) (popmatters.com)
- Ameena Matthews Of The Interrupters Appeared On The Colbert Report (chicagoist.com)
- Crisis interruptus (theage.com.au)
- The Best Indie / International Films of 2011 (Feature) (popmatters.com)
- The Interrupters (noframeof.wordpress.com)
A father in Louisiana bludgeoned and beheaded his disabled 7-year-old son last August because he no longer wanted to care for the boy. For most people, such a heinous act is unconscionable.
But it may be that a person can become callous enough to commit human atrocities because of a failure in the part of the brain that’s critical for social interaction. A new study by researchers at Duke University and Princeton University suggests this function may disengage when people encounter others they consider disgusting, thus “dehumanizing” their victims by failing to acknowledge they have thoughts and feelings.
This shortcoming also may help explain how propaganda depicting Tutsi in Rwanda as cockroaches and Hitler’s classification of Jews in Nazi Germany as vermin contributed to torture and genocide, the study said.
“When we encounter a person, we usually infer something about their minds. Sometimes, we fail to do this, opening up the possibility that we do not perceive the person as fully human,” said lead author Lasana Harris, an assistant professor in Duke University’s Department of Psychology & Neuroscience and Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Harris co-authored the study with Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University.
Social neuroscience has shown through MRI studies that people normally activate a network in the brain related to social cognition — thoughts, feelings, empathy, for example — when viewing pictures of others or thinking about their thoughts. But when participants in this study were asked to consider images of people they considered drug addicts, homeless people, and others they deemed low on the social ladder, parts of this network failed to engage.
What’s especially striking, the researchers said, is that people will easily ascribe social cognition — a belief in an internal life such as emotions — to animals and cars, but will avoid making eye contact with the homeless panhandler in the subway.
“We need to think about other people’s experience,” Fiske said. “It’s what makes them fully human to us.”…
- A brain’s failure to appreciate others may permit human atrocities (esciencenews.com)
- A brain’s failure to appreciate others may permit human atrocities (eurekalert.org)
- Why Leaders Should Care About Cognitive Neuroscience (forbes.com)
- Scientists’ Idea Helps Explain ‘What and Where’ People See (prnewswire.com)
- Wisdom through Mindfulness: Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation (adultadhdhelp.net)