Our Readers' Opinions
November 12, 2004
Seeking solutions to violence

Editor: It is evident that most people are concerned about the violent trends plaguing the nation, and the suffering experienced by the victims of violence, their relatives, friends and acquaintances.

Caution should be exercised in regard to using quick-fix approaches to address violence. {{more}}

The World Health Organization recently did a global study on violence and published its findings in a report including underlying factors and causes of violence, and recommendations.

Several risk factors related to interpersonal violence are identified in this report. They include poor behavioural control, low self-esteem, personality and conduct disorders, lack of emotional bonding and support, early exposure to violence in the home, family or personal histories marked by divorce or separation, abuse of drugs and alcohol, access to weapons, poverty, income disparities, and gender inequality.

According to the report, “Some causes of violence are easy to see. Others are deeply rooted in the social, cultural and economic fabric of human life. Recent research suggests that while biological and other individual factors explain some of the predisposition to aggression, more often these factors interact with the family, community, cultural and other external factors to create a situation where violence is likely to occur.”

To address the issues that promote violence, systematic approaches are needed. It will be helpful to have a national strategy against violence.

This strategy should contain programmes and approaches on a number of levels and areas. Maybe some of these programmes already exist. If so, they might need to be enhanced to address the underlying issues related to the kinds of violent crimes occurring in the society.

At the individual level, several programmes should be considered and they include educational programmes; social development programmes; therapeutic programmes; and treatment programmes.

At the relationship level, programmes to consider are training in parenting; mentoring programmes; family therapy programmes; home visitation programmes; and training in relationship skills.

Community programmes

At the community level, programmes that could be useful are public education campaigns using the media; modifications to the physical environment; extracurricular activities for young people; community policing to create partnerships; programmes for specific settings such as schools, workplaces, and care institutions; and coordinated community interventions.

At the societal levels, several approaches could be carried out including legislative and judicial remedies; implementing international treaties; policy changes to reduce poverty and inequality, and improve support for families; and efforts to change social and cultural norms.

The national strategy against violence must consider various types of intervention. These interventions could be done on three levels: universal interventions directed at the whole population; selected interventions directed at those at high risk for violence; and interventions directed at those who have engaged in violent behaviour.

The strategy must be grounded in reality. In this context accurate information is needed. This includes health data on diseases, injuries, and other health conditions; data on attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, cultural practices, victimization and exposure to violence; community data on population characteristics and levels of income, education and employment; crime data on the characteristics and circumstances of violent events and violent offenders; economic data related to costs of treatment, social services and prevention activities; and policy and legislative data. In this context, it is essential to enhance the capacity for collecting data on violence, and to increase collaboration and exchange of information on violence.

We must conquer violence. But as with any other national issue, violence requires a systematic and integrated approach to comprehensively address it.

Maxwell Haywood