Preventing violence is a daunting task – there is so much violence, so many forms of violence and many social and cultural forces that promote and condone violence. Each form of violence, whether it is sexual violence, dating violence, street violence, trafficking, child maltreatment, suicide, etc. has its own research, funders, agencies dedicated to eradicating it and system that address that form of violence. Our society had created a wide range of separate distinct responses to each form of violence. While there are important distinct needs for victims/survivors of each form of violence, we have created a fragmented system to address violence.
Yet, in some ways preventing violence can be seen more simply. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to join one hundred people from a variety of fields, disciplines and organizations at an event titled Somebody Stood Up for Me: Changing the Future for Children Experiencing Bullying, Trauma and Violence. I left inspired to find ways to work together collectively to end violence.
I think we often spend much of our time describing the problem of violence. At a panel on creating healing communities, David Bornstein of the New York Times said “As you raise awareness about the problem, you need to raise awareness of efficacy [of the solution].” Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment highlighted the next step we need to take to prevent violence: “We don’t need more science. What we need now is more courage.”
One way to do this is reframing how we see a powerful research study. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) is a long term study that showed how adverse experiences in childhood (such as being abused or neglected, having a mother treated violently, household member being imprisoned, substance abuse) as associated with health problems as an adult. I was inspired with the title of one of the afternoon panels: “Awesome” Childhood Experiences. In many ways, a great part of our work to prevent violence is to create opportunities for children to have positive childhood experiences.
How are you creating “awesome” childhood experiences? That is a big part of our work to prevent violence.