My upcoming show: The Anti-Violence Advocate, is going to be focused on violence and it’s impact on the individual, relationships, families, and our communities. Violence has great consequences across communities and is integrally linked to oppression of women and marginalized populations, the perpetuation of sexism, racism, heteronormativity, transphobia and other ideologies of domination.
Violence is defined by the World Health Organization as intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person or against a group or community that either results in or would have a high likelihood to result in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.
Violence and injuries kill more people aged 1 – 44 than any other cause and results in over 400 billion in medical care annually. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention consider this to be one the most serious health problems in the United States. Yet the numbers of violent deaths is only a portion of the story. Interpersonal violence in the form of child abuse, sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, dating violence, and human trafficking for sexual exploitation effects 1 in 4 or more of women and 1 in 8 or more of males. Survivors are left with permanent physical and emotional scars that can change lives forever by impacting mental health, impairing social functioning and slowing economic and social development, and require ongoing intervention. But here again, the impact on the survivor is only part of the story. Violence erodes our communities by increasing costs and demands on medical care, reducing productivity, decreasing property values, and disrupting social services. The range of interpersonal violence I described contributes to truancy, unemployment, unplanned pregnancies, communicable diseases, unhealthy relationships, substance abuse and dependency, and reduction or loss of income.
Violence is perpetuated against more than 25% of our community individually and impacts a 100% of our community. If violence was a disease, it would be considered an epidemic. Social forces would mobilize, funders would come out in droves, and programs would be implemented to effect change immediately. But for violence, that still is not happening consistently or maintained strategically. And why is that? As violence is an intentional act, it then bodes the realization that it is preventable. While some people with mental health disorders may cause violence without understanding what they are doing, most violence is premeditated and planned. People intentionally make decisions to perpetuate violence against others, with the highest numbers of violence perpetuated against women and members of marginalized communities.
Interpersonal and social factors are related to both the cause and the prevention of violence. The potentially modifiable factors most associated with levels of violence are concentrated poverty, income disparity, the absence of stable and healthy relationships within families, and (what might be most controversial for some) gender inequality.
A strategic approach addressing the underlying causes of violence is most effective in preventing violence. Evidenced-based or scientifically credible strategies to prevent violence include nurse home-visiting and parenting education to prevent child maltreatment; life skills training for children ages 6–18 years; school-based programmes to address gender norms and attitudes; reducing alcohol availability and misuse; reducing access to guns and knives; and promoting gender and racial equality by, for instance, supporting the economic empowerment of women and traditionally marginalized ethnic and cultural groups.