Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links of Multiple Forms of Violence

The following is a summary of Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links of Multiple Forms of Violence (Center for Disease Control, 2014). The aim of the report is, firstly, to highlight the often overlooked connections between various forms of violence including child abuse, intimate partner violence, bullying, and community violence. The report goes on to urge service providers to break down the walls that currently exist between specialized fields in order to more adequately address the harms created by violent behavior and to prevent continued perpetuation.

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“Professionally we have silos, and we operate in these silos we’ve got to break down. Across the country, people working to prevent child abuse are right across the hall from people working on violence against women, and they don’t work together. As we go into communities to bring everybody to the table, don’t let people say, ‘I work on child abuse, but this is about gang violence.’ Don’t let people say, ‘I work on violence against women, and this is about child abuse.’ This thing, all this violence, is connected.” -Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, Adjunct Professor, Harvard School of Public Health

Risk Factors and Protective Factors

Violent behavior is incredibly complex and is influenced by a myriad of risk factors–the things that put an individual at greater risk for experiencing and perpetrating violence–and protective factors–things that increase resiliency and decrease the likelihood that someone will engage in or be victim to violence. The CDC has identified the following risk and protective factors with regards to violent behavior:

Examples of risk factors are: rigid social beliefs about what is “masculine” and “feminine,” lack of job opportunities, and family conflict

Examples of protective factors are: connection to a caring adult or access to mental health services

The Impact of Violence on Development

-Children who grow up in safe and nurturing environments “learn empathy, impulse control, anger management and problem-solving—all skills that protect against violence”
-Children who grow up in persistently violent, unstable, and/or unsafe environments often interpret situations to be threatening and are more likely to respond violently (fight) or to avoid the situation together (flee)
-These responses, termed fight-or-flight, “are survival skills that people are born with and often override other skills that enable non-violent conflict resolution, such as impulse control, empathy, anger management, and problem-solving skills”

Community Context and the Co-Occurrence of Multiple Forms of Violence

-Low social cohesion within communities and lack of economic opportunities are associated with higher rates of intimate partner violence, child abuse and maltreatment, and youth violence
-Individuals who lack adequate support from friends, family members, or neighbors, have been found to perpetrate partner abuse, child maltreatment, and/or elder abuse at rates higher than their more socially integrated counterparts
-Witnessing community violence is a risk factor for being bullied and for perpetrating sexual violence
-Access to mental health and substance abuse services in addition to coordination of resources and services across community agencies increases communities’ resiliency to violence

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