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Stopping Violence: Your Social Impact



My day in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago deeply affected me.

I want to share how you… yes you personally, impact our society for good or for bad. And if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Silence or non-engagement is part of the problem. And you have most likely already been directly or indirectly affected.

We live in a violent society.

1 in 4 women experience violence against them. 1 in 6 are sexually assaulted.

MEND 1 in 4

How does this impact you? How many women do you care about in your life? Jot their name down. If you have 4 or more names, odds are good one of them (or more) have been or will be impacted. In fact, almost EVERY one of us is impacted either directly or indirectly. Today’s sad reality is that at least one woman you know and care about has been impacted by violence. It is probably many more than one.

And the children… 15.5 million children experience violence in their homes each year. Kids who experience violence are at least TWICE as likely to be violent themselves when they grow up.

MEND 2 of 3 Children

Where does the cycle stop? How does it stop?

Violence is a learned behavior.

I recently joined the Advisory Board of Cure Violence, a non-profit started at the University of Illinois in Chicago. A health expert, Dr. Gary Slutkin, has battled contagious disease in Africa. Serious outbreaks. And helped them stop. When he returned to America he believed that violence should be treated like contagious diseases. And the same methods that stop the spread of seemingly unstoppable diseases would work to stop the sprread of violence.

Violence spreads from person to person. Violence can be interrupted.

Gary started Cure Violence (first known as Cease Fire), and started working with gun violence in the most violent areas in Chicago. And it worked. It has now spread to New York City and other cities around the world.

In June of this year I visited one of the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago to meet the team on the streets, doing the hard work. They started their operation in these violent neighborhoods in October 2014. Gun violence was down over 300% in the short time they’d been present! Baltimore is another Cure Violence city. When the recent riots broke out, the only neighborhoods that did not engage in the violence were those where a Cure Violence program was running.

The team on the street, often hired from the neighborhoods and often themselves formerly violent people, get trained as interrupters. They interrupt the contagion of violence.

One example… When violence occurs such as a shooting, they figure out which families or gangs were hurt or lost loved ones in the shooting or attack. They approach them and do everything possible to get them to stand down and not retaliate. Not always easy to do. They help them understand that a retaliation will almost certainly provoke an equal or more violent attack back. And so it continues, and more brothers and sisters and sons and daughters are killed.

I talked with Ulysses, better known to his friends as “U.S.” and now the leader of the Cure Violence team in the “Top 3” most violent areas of Chicago that I was visiting. He’d been personally involved in gangs and violence for 40 years.

U.S.’s own son was instantly labeled by teachers in school when they discovered U.S. was his Dad. It wasn’t a good label. Years later his grandson told him he wanted to grow up to be just like him. That was a  final wakeup call. He didn’t want his precious grandson to follow in his footsteps. He asked himself about the role model he’d become. He decided he wanted to leave a different legacy. He joined Cure Violence. He even went and got a University degree.

James is 20 and is also part of the team. He shared how he didn’t want his son to grow up violent like him. He decided to break the cycle.

And Ru, the young lady on the team, shared how her daughter was killed on the streets of her neighborhood. Ru decided to become a force for good versus continuing her own defiant ways.

You probably don’t live in such a violent neighborhood… one where violence has been the norm. Where when bullets are fired, you don’t dive for cover, you look outside to see who is shooting who this time. At least I hope you do not. So how is this discussion of violence relevant to you?

Why talk about this in Social Month in Lifebook’s VIP Community?

It’s time to get a little uncomfortable… It’s about our language. Not cursing. It’s about how we talk about each other. It is how we treat each other. The words you speak are having an impact, one way or another. Or your silence is.

In particular, I want to talk to the men. And I want women reading this to talk to their men. 85% of violence against women and violence against men is done by men. Especially in domestic violence, it’s a man’s issue.

It is time for good men to stand up and change our culture. It starts by changing how we talk about women. It starts with us being great models for our children. For those of us who coach, it starts with teaching our players a valid definition of what it means to be a man.

Men, when you are engaging in your social life and a group of pretty ladies walk by, is the talk in your group respectful or not? If not, do you participate? Just laugh? Say nothing? It is time for men to speak up. It is time for you to speak up. Silence is unacceptable. Challenge your friends to think and talk differently and to grow up. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging beauty. It is another thing to talk inappropriately. I am sure you can think of situations and examples you have experienced.

It also starts with how you treat the women in your life. A small yet important example… Do you leave things lying around the house, expecting your wife to pick up after you? What message does that send to your children about the respect and role of women in our world? What does that tell your wife? Again, you can think of many examples that do not raise a healthy and strong model for our children or send the right message to our wives. (Reference: The Chair http://mylifebook.com/blog/cleaning-the-chair-saying-i-love-you/ )

If we want our society to be safe for women and children, we need to treat women with respect.

It starts in our social life. It starts in our homes.

Violence is spread like a disease. It starts with a sniffle (a little inappropriate comment here or there.) It turns serious in too many cases. And it spreads.

1 in 4. 1 in 6. A domestic violence call every 20 minutes in many of our cities. Change the culture now before someone you love gets hurt. Or worse.

Lifebook VIPs, we can be a force for good in this world! Simply starting with changing the dialog can have a huge ripple effect in our culture. We can set a higher standard for our friends and, in turn, change our cities.

If you know someone in a domestic violence situation, get them help now. Call the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to speak directly to an advocate. Do not be a bystander. 

The “R3″ application, free for Apple and Android devices, has a nationwide listing of centers that can help. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/r3-app/id491452316?mt=8)

Additional Recommended Videos:

Jackson Katz on Language: https://www.ted.com/speakers/jackson_katz

Tony Porter on “The Man Box”: https://www.ted.com/speakers/tony_porter

Gary Slutkin on Cure Violence: https://www.ted.com/talks/gary_slutkin_let_s_treat_violence_like_a_contagious_disease

Dave Jaworski is Lifebook’s Chief Operating Officer. Dave also serves on the Advisory Board of Cure Violence (CureViolence.org) and is an Advisor to and creator of the MEND Toolkit platform for the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee in their efforts to end violence against women. MEND – In order to END violence against women, it begins with MEN. For more information see http://ywcanashville.com/programs/domestic-violence

(This article originally appeared September 1 in Lifebook’s VIP Community (http://mylifebook.com) for Social month.)

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