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  • Writer's pictureAnge Puig, Ph.D.

JULY 2021- Beginning A New 6-Part Series Focused Upon Issues of Violence

July 2021

Dr. Ange’s Thought of the Month

Beginning A New 6 - Part Series Focused Upon

Issues of Violence

The WHO (The World Health Organization) defines violence as: "The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation."

It further divides the general definition of violence into three sub-types according to the victim-perpetrator relationship.

  • Self-directed violence-refers to violence in which the perpetrator and the victim are the same individual

  • Interpersonal violence-refers to the violence between individuals, and is subdivided into family and intimate partner violence and community violence. It includes child maltreatment; intimate partner violence; and elder abuse and includes youth violence; assault by strangers; violence related to property crimes.

  • Collective violence-refers to violence committed by larger groups of individuals and can be subdivided into social, political and economic violence

(January 6, 2021 is our most recent and stark example)

When we look back at the attack on January 6, 2021, to the Nation’s Capital, back to the Oklahoma City bombing, and the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Racial Massacre, we are brought to the quote by H. Grap Brown:

“Violence is as American as Apple Pie.”

How can we rationally address and understand the issues of violence? It is like trying to take a bucket of water out of the Cooper River and fully understand the impact, costs, definitions, and human experience with violence. Our knowledge of violence is obtained from many sources, including our personal experience, witnessing events, discussions, our jobs which may touch on issues of violence both directly and indirectly, and from academic and media sources. So exists a challenge - How can our limited hunter, gatherer, Homo sapiens brains manage this vast concept we call Violence?

So, if you like many others have turned off or reduced their media because too much violence is represented, displayed, discussed, and dissected and it makes sense for us to reduce our impact because even violence vicariously experienced from afar has an impact on our thoughts, our feelings, our psyches, and, yes, our sleep. So, let’s look at this paradigm called violence. First, let us look at the impact and cost of Violence upon us directly and indirectly.

WHO’s World report on violence and health (2002) detailing the costs of violence from the USA where child abuse results in $94B in annual costs to the economy - 1.0% of the gross domestic product. Direct medical treatment costs per abused child have been calculated by different studies to range from $13,781 to $42,518. Intimate partner violence costs the USA economy $12.6B on an annual basis - 0.1% of the gross domestic product - compared to 1.6% of the gross domestic product in Nicaragua and 2.0% of the gross domestic product in Chile. Gun violence - which includes suicides - has alone been calculated at $155B annually.

Time Article states that, "2020 as one of America’s Most Violent Years in Decades". That year many Americans have experienced significantly higher levels of violence both outside and within their communities. Gun violence and gun crime has, in particular, risen drastically, with over 19,000 people killed in shootings and firearm-related incidents in 2020. That’s the highest death toll in over 20 years, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), This total includes victims of homicides and unintentional deaths but does not include gun suicides.

One way I look at violence is to view it in the context which states that every aspects of life’s “atoms” visible and invisible are interconnected and interdependent.

This suggests that the impact of violence is far reaching. If we attempt to take the position that ignorance is bliss regarding violence, then we fail to appreciate that truth will always help us make informed choices and decisions. So, we start with the myths or misunderstandings of violence, and then also tied to myths are ways in which your eye in our ordinary lives can begin to change our understanding and role that we play in our nation’s strange, torrid, and painful relationship with violence.

While many myths and misconceptions exist about the causes of Violence, Three I believe are critical:

  1. Violence is waiting around the corner in most cases: This is not factual.

  2. More police on the force lessen the Violence rate: Actually most police state that the solution to Violence doesn't rest upon higher rates of arrest.

  3. We can escape the impact and cost of Violence by avoiding dangerous places: This is partially true. Given the example that you should avoid burning buildings, but the cost, as previously noted, will impact us weather we are direct victims or not.

How do we with our easily overwhelmed hunter gather brains make sense of the impacts of violence?

I use the acronym R.A.A.I.N. from the work of Tara Brach ( Tara Brach is an American psychologist, author, and proponent of Buddhist meditation. She is a guiding teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C. She also teaches about Buddhist meditation at centers for meditation and yoga in the United States and Europe, and at the Kripalu Center.

R Recognize that the problem exists and affects us all

A Allow openness to different points of view

A Accept that no easy single solution exists

I Investigate and seek out good information

N Nurture yourself because witnessing is emotionally provoking

I hope that we continue to add our voices to the witnessing of violence in this most pressing Public Health Challenge.

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