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Where Violence Thrives

Whether we’re talking about youth violence, sexual violence, or intimate partner violence, all of which can involve gun violence, there are similarities in the lists of risk factors for perpetrating these crimes.

Violent offenders often have antisocial beliefs and attitudes.  They tend to be aggressive and hostile.  They are frequently involved in drug and alcohol use.  Perpetrators have typically been exposed to violence, such as witnessing family violence, being physically abused, or being sexually assaulted.  They commonly hold very rigid gender roles, equate manhood with aggression, and exaggerate their male stereotypical behavior.

Relationships play an important role.  Violent offenders often have families fraught with instability, maltreatment, patriarchy, and other unhealthy interactions.  Gang involvement increases the risk of certain types of violence, while rejection by peers increases the risk for others.  Low academic performance and unemployment are also common among perpetrators of violence.

People who commit violence don’t evolve in a vacuum.  They are influenced by family functioning, friends’ behaviors, and community dynamics.  Impoverished neighborhoods, socially disorganized neighborhoods, and violent neighborhoods increase the risk of perpetrating violence.  Communities that tolerate violence and fail to enforce sanctions against these crimes also increase the risk of violent offenses.  People in these communities live with many stressors, have fears, and lack faith in authorities to effectively address violence, which raises the risk of committing violent acts.

People see the lists of risk factors and still miss the point.  People who perpetrate violence are abusing their power in a particular situation.  In addition, many of the risk factors for perpetrating violence are examples of people and/or institutions abusing their power over others.  Reconsider the father who dominates his family, the law enforcement officer who refuses to file a police report, and the society that reinforces inequalities.

We each need to recognize our own power and refuse to abuse that power.  That would be a good first step to eradicating violence in our world.

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