Are the police our friends?

This week’s past lecture, we discussed deterrence theory and different methods and approaches to prevent crime. The focused deterrence model is the idea that the possibility of punishment for one’s actions prevents people from committing crimes. Personally I think this theory is only viable for certain circumstances. In certain places where law enforcement isn’t perceived as a threat, people may commit crimes without fear of being caught. When there is a lack of respect between the police and community members this circumstance is evident.

Growing up I was taught to trust those in charge like elders, teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc… As I got older, I saw how police treated some of my peers and I quickly lost that trust. They were supposed to aid the community in stopping crime, not point fingers at the first person they see wearing baggy jeans and a black hoodie. Between random stops on the street and arrests for simply “looking suspicious,” the police in my neighborhood were not considered friends amongst us.

Screen shot 2013-04-26 at 11.58.33 PM

 The first thing that comes to mind when I think of a lack of respect is NWA’s famous song “Fuck the Police.” Some lyrics include, “Fuck the police comin straight from the underground, a young nigga got it bad cause I’m brown, and not the other color so police think they have the authority to kill a minority.” NWA hails from Compton, CA, a place where the police targeted blacks heavily and when this song came out it wasn’t news to anyone because most people shared this sentiment. The song demonstrates the extreme disconnect in a place were the police were not protecting the citizens, which led them not to discredit their power and authority, rendering them useless.

A show recently aired on TNT entitled, “Boston’s Finest” about Boston’s Police Department. The show portrayed the cops capturing suspects, talking to youth, and their lives at home with their families. The bio on the TNT website says, “Boston’s Finest offers viewers an up-close and very personal look at what it takes to protect and serve one of America’s greatest and most distinctive cities.” While I thought there was some truth to the process in which they catch suspects, I think the show portrayed a false reality of the relations between the cops and youth in the city. Being a resident of Boston, I can say firsthand that there needs to be an improvement of the image of cops in the city. Boston has a similar structure to the “Governing Board” that Dean Dabney outlined in the lecture. However, not all systems have strong ties with one another, especially law enforcement. A study outlined some of the reasons why people lack faith in the police department including lack of confidence in police to solve issues, a risk of mistreatment, and a loss of respect from one’s peers (Anderson). Many people don’t trust cops because of personal experiences or seeing mistreatment happen to their peers. Clearly there needs to be change in the inner city so that the police and people in the community can trust one another. After seeing these shows and viewing this mistrust firsthand, I can say that it will take a lot of TLC to get everyone on one side and trusting the police to have our best interests.

 

Anderson, E. (1992). The story of John Turner. Public Interest, 108, 3-34

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/nwa/fuckthepolice.html

http://bbsimg.ngfiles.com/1/22508000/ngbbs4d69b46ec48ba.jpg

 

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Will Deterrence Do It?

gangs

by Natasha David-Walker

Pockets of crime have a tendency to form centralized and inter-connected operations in inner city neighborhoods. South-side Chicago, the Bowdoin-Geneva (Dorchester) neighborhood in Boston, and “Vine City” in Atlanta Georgia are all notorious for gang related activity, drug trafficking, and other elements that breed violence and crime.

Over the last two decades, federal, state, and local dollars have been allocated to programs across the country in an attempt to rid these communities of violence that has contributed to general decay, loss of property, and unfortunately loss of life. The return in results per funding of programs has been minimal in many urban areas. According to Sherman, the evaluation processes in the programs are complicated due to inability to maintain controls. “Any attempt to evaluate an internally diverse national funding program is comparable to a pharmacy evaluation.  Even if the right preventative treatments are matched to the right crime risks, a national before-and-after evaluation of a funding stream would lack vital elements of the scientific method. The lack of a control group makes it impossible to eliminate alternative theories about why national-level crime rates changed” (Sherman, Gottfredson, MacKenzie, Eck, Reuter, & Bushway, 1997).

Jonathan Kennedy initiated deterrence-based programs aimed at connecting law enforcement, community leaders, and nonprofit organizations to form coalitions that joined forces to focus on pockets of resistance within communities affected by crime and violence.  Deterrence-based models use group pressure, group support, and substantial communication with persons of influence in the streets, to develop a network of agents who have internal or external vested interest in the targeted community (Dabney, 2013).

Currently, there is a movement working from the ground-level up, to create a comparable coalition in Atlanta that will utilize the deterrence-based model in the Vine City community. Some are cynical about the prospective effort as evidenced by a recent story in the magazine, Atlanta entitled, “It’s Going To Take More Than $45 Million To Help Vine City” (Atlanta, 2013). According to Dean Dabney, guest lecturer in our Violence Inquiry course, correctional approaches for criminals have shifted from varying perspectives for years ranging from rehabilitation strategies to tough on crime policies without substantial results. Advocates of the rehabilitation model argue that there was a failure to properly implement the model. On the other hand, ideologies promoted by conservatives, packaged as “warehouse theories” were cited as largely ineffective. The difference with deterrence-based theory is the concept that “crimes can be prevented when the costs of committing the crime are perceived by the offender to outweigh the benefits” (Braga & Weisburd, 2012).

Deterrence-based programs, considers a strategic offense from an economic premise, where the end result must provide some incentive for the action. Essentially, law enforcement uses offenders and ex-offenders as street agents. The offender is enlisted to work with the coalition to identify perpetrators and provide other useful information for law enforcement, particularly incidences that are related to gang violence.  Dabney relates, gang related violence accounts for the structured connections between drug dealing, assaults, and other criminal actions in most communities. By applying pressure, and breaking up the gang units, crime has been statistically shown to decrease. Initially, I thought the process of enlisting offenders sounded too much like “snitching.” However, the difference with deterrence-based programs is the immediate reward or the immediate weight of federal enforcers. Most community-based programs are not connected with the federal branches of law enforcement on a programmatic level. In the past, the strength of the law depended upon state and local enforcers. With federal agents in the mix, the arm of the law has the capacity to stretch longer, deeper, and wider creating adverse situations for offenders, such as prison-time in cities located multiple states away from home – which reduces the likelihood of visitation. Most offenders are more inclined to cooperate when the cons outweigh the pros.  As a result of the flexed federal arm, the offender usually agrees to function as the point of contact. In other instances people with criminal records who are guilty of lower level offenses receive the full extent of the law rather than the usual minimum sentence in an effort to send a message to other offenders that there is a serious effort on the ground to root out, and eradicate criminal elements in the community.

The deterrence-based model produced results in Boston. Typically duplicating programs with some modifications per the dynamics of the city are successful.  However, working from the inside in, appears to be one of the major roadblocks to accomplishing the goals in Atlanta’s Vine City. For example, one of the difficulties in the establishment of the coalition was determining who to utilize as agents in the slots dedicated for community stakeholders (Dabney, 2013). There also seems to be a general malaise about the derelict conditions in the Vine City area although the deterioration belies the beautifully landscaped sidewalks a few blocks away in downtown Atlanta. According to Atlanta magazine reporter, Rebecca Burns, a drive along Sunset Street “provides an instant snapshot of how impoverished Vine City and English Avenue truly are” (Burns, 2013).  An online source reports, the median income in the Vine City area is $24, 186 compared to the median income of Atlanta residents of $49,981 (City-Data.com, 2013).  “Bleak doesn’t begin to describe it; Third-World is too cheap and easy a label but comes closer” (Burns, 2013).  Although a large part of the debate hinges on the criminal issues, researchers acknowledge that poverty is a major co-factor, the other “usual suspect” in neighborhoods where violence reaches tipping points.

Physicians and practitioners are making a concerted effort to change the way we perceive violence, thus the intention of this course, to draw attention to the connection between health and violence. In fact, Dabney asserted that the presence of Grady Health System’s emergency care is largely responsible for the reduction of human collateral. Without the team of specialized physicians at Grady there would be more funerals.

There are serious efforts in academia to rank violence as a public policy issue and tie the problem more directly to public health. “The public understands the prevention of disease through the concepts of lifestyle choices. Similarly, people have a good understanding of automobile safety and injury prevention when it is logically framed to show cause and effect between seat-belt usage and failure to wear a seat-belt”(Sherman, et al., 1997).  The more we connect the dots between violence and public health, by emphasizing the long-lasting, emotional, physical, mental, financial, and often fatal consequences of violence on society as a whole, and in individual cases; the general public will grow to understand how critical it is to become proactive in efforts to combat violence.  

References

Sherman, L. Gottfredson, D. MacKenzie, D. Eck, J. Reuter, P. Bushway, S. (1997). Preventing crime: What works, what doesn’t, what’s promising. A Report to the United States Congress. https://www.ncjrs.gov/works/chapter2.htm

Dabney, D. (2013). Rehabilitation and prevention.  Violence Inquiry Lecture. Emory University: A Multidisciplinary Inquiry. April 22, 2013.

Braga, A. A., Weisburd, D. L., (2012). The effects of focused deterrence strategies on crime: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the empirical evidence. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.  49(30. 323-358.

Burns, R. 2013). It’s Going To Take More Than $45 Million To help Vine City.   Atlanta. March, 13, 2013. http://www.atlantamagazine.com/agenda/2013/03/13/its-going-to-take-more-than-45-million-to-help-vine-city

City-data.com (2013). Vine City neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia (GA), 30314 detailed profile http://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/Vine-City-Atlanta-GA.html#ixzz2Ral9MqF0

Dogs and their Human Companions

In class we discussed violence against domestic animals. The relationship between humans and animals is determined by how the animal is categorized (companion animal, laboratory animal, livestock, or warm-blooded animal). Companion animals, such as dogs and cats, have a special relationship with humans and the most legal protection of the categories. It seems that protection isn’t because the animals themselves deserve protection but rather because of the human interest in the animal. Dogs in particular have a strong bond with humans. Being a dog lover myself I decided to delve into the relationship between canines and people.

Over time dogs developed an ability to communicate with humans. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2251326/) A recent scientific study suggests that people might really be able to tell what a dog is feeling just by looking at his face. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/pets/9934977/Scientists-prove-you-really-can-tell-what-your-dog-is-feeling-by-looking-at-its-face.html) The research included a group of 50 volunteers who were broken into 2 groups based on their experience with dogs. Each volunteer viewed various photographs the same dog and were asked to identify the dog’s emotion. Volunteers were able to accurately identify when the dog was happy, sad, angry, surprised or scared just by seeing a picture of the dog’s face. This ability to recognize emotions in a dog indicates that people are naturally able to detect how animals are feeling.

Dog-expressions_2511743bImage from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/pets/9934977/Scientists-prove-you-really-can-tell-what-your-dog-is-feeling-by-looking-at-its-face.html

The volunteers most easily identified happiness (88%). The second most identifiable emotion was anger which was recognized by 70% of the volunteers. The remaining emotions and corresponding percent of recognition are frightened 45%, sadness 37%, surprise 20%, and disgust 13%. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/pets/9934977/Scientists-prove-you-really-can-tell-what-your-dog-is-feeling-by-looking-at-its-face.html) Interestingly, the study showed that the volunteers who had minimal experience with dogs were better able to identify disgust and anger. The researchers think that the inexperienced volunteers could recognize the emotion of the dog because the ability to read a dog’s face comes naturally and isn’t a learned skill. It is unclear why this is the case but the researchers hypothesize that this ability might be due to the long shared history or common mammalian ancestry. Facial expressions of dogs are similar to human facial expressions. Overall the experienced volunteers could correctly identify the dog’s emotion 45% of the time and the inexperienced group was correct 38% of the time. (Bloom, T., Friedman, H., Classifying dogs’ (Canis familiaris) facial expressions from photographs. Behav. Process. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2013.02.010).

Examples of Canine Loyalty

Dogs are man’s best friend. They are loyal companions who grieve the loss of their friends too. Not too long ago my mom and I watched the movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale starring Richard Gere. Neither of us can even talk about the movie without crying. The movie is based on the true story of a University of Tokyo professor and his furry companion Hachiko from the 1920s. Richard Gere plays a professor who takes the train to work everyday. One night coming home he comes across an Akita puppy all alone in the cold at the train station. He takes the dog home and they instantly bond. Every morning Hachi escorts the professor to the train station and every afternoon he meets the professor to walk him home. Spoiler Alert! Years later the professor takes the train to school but something horrible happens and he never returns. Hachi waited for his return. It never came. The professor’s family took Hachi home but they couldn’t keep him there. Hachi escaped to return to the train station to wait for his friend; he continued to wait until his death 9 years later. Hachiko

Hachiko image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachi:_A_Dog%27s_Tale

Recently another episode of canine loyalty surfaced in the media. In 2006, similar to Hachi’s devotion, German Shepherd Capitan ran away from home after his friend Miguel Guzman died suddenly and found his grave. The family found Capitan at the grave the following week. For the past 6 years every evening Capitan returns to the cemetery and spends the night on his best friend’s grave.

capitan

Capitan image from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/capitan-dog-grave-owner-six-years-_n_1882587.html

A third loyal companion is Ciccio (or Tommy), a German Shepherd from Italy. Prior to her companion’s death,  each afternoon Ciccio would accompany her friend to mass. Ciccio attended the funeral and followed the procession of the coffin to the same local church where the 2 had attended mass.

Heart Broken DogCiccio image from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/20/ciccio-the-dog-attends-ma_n_2511351.html

Abuse and Neglect

Many owners reciprocate this loyalty. There are many people who have dogs and lovingly care for them because the dog is a member of the family. People are so attached to their pets that Congress passed a law allowing pets to stay in shelters with their families during federal emergencies. (Animals as Vulnerable Subjects: Beyond Interest-Convergence, Hierarchy, and Property by Ani B. Satz 2009, 67, 83) Some people were killed during Hurricane Katrina when they refused to leave their homes without their animals. (Satz, 67, 83)

However, while dog is man’s best friend, people do not always hold up their end of the friendship. Many other dogs aren’t so lucky and suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of people whether it be through action or failure to act. Many animals are sentient beings meaning they have the capacity to suffer. (Satz, 73-77) Domestic animals are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because they are permanently dependent on human caregivers. (Satz, 81) At a minimum, domestic animals are dependent on their caregivers for food, water, and shelter and at the mercy of others.

There is so much neglect, that states have criminalized companion animal abuse and neglect. (Satz, 81) Companion animals are domesticated live as a pet such as dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and horses. Some purposes of these laws include a desire to keep them from harm, protect the relationships people value with their pets, and the link between animal cruelty and violence against humans. (Satz, 67-73)

For example, Georgia defines cruelty to animals: “when he or she causes death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any animal by an act or omission, or willful neglect.” Ga. Code Ann. § 16-12-4. The term animal does not include fish or pests and willful neglect is intentional withholding of food and water necessary to prevent starvation or dehydration. In Georgia, “a person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she knowingly and maliciously causes death or serious physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of such animal’s body useless or by seriously disfiguring such animal.” Ga. Code Ann. § 16-12-4.

You’d think that because people can decipher a dog’s emotion by his or her facial expressions and how loyal dogs have proven to be to their human counterparts there would be less mistreatment of dogs. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. If you are interested in volunteering and helping homeless dogs and cats in your community check out Georgia Homeless Pets http://www.gahomelesspets.com/ and/or Homeless Pets Foundation http://www.homelesspets.com/. I have volunteered with both organizations and they need all the help they can get!

Information provided by the cited materials above and the links listed below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachi:_A_Dog%27s_Tale

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1028532/?ref_=sr_1

http://www.dogheirs.com/larne/posts/1880-faithful-dog-refuses-to-leave-his-owner-s-graveside-for-six-years

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4537070/Dog-sits-by-owners-grave-for-six-years.html

For the full text of the Ga. Code Ann. § 16-12-4 see http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-16/chapter-12/article-1/16-12-4/

Out of the Shadows: Addressing Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military

“To say I survived is not so final as to say, for example, I feel alive. Sometimes we wake up to find that the war survived with us.”

The preceding are compelling words from a military servicewoman who survived not only the frontlines of the Iraqi war but also the violence and distress of sexual abuse at the hands of her commander during her deployment there.

Guest course lecturer Ursula Kelly recently gave a compelling lecture that discussed the myriad ways in which trauma pervades the lives of individuals who have been sexually abused while in the military. A recent report published by the U.S.’s Department of Defense (DoD) underscored the sheer magnitude of military sexual assaults. Since the close of World War II, the DoD has estimated that more than 500,000 active military personnel have been raped or sexually assaulted; many of these individuals continue to suffer from extreme mental health issues resulting from rape or from physical health conditions resulting from their violent experiences. In 2011 alone, the number of reports of sexual assault or harassment surpassed more than 3,000, and the report suggests that it is likely that up to 80% of all victims do not report sexual crimes committed against them, as the conviction rate of perpetrators remains less than 8%.

Prosecution rates of military sexual violence perpetrators remain abhorrently low due to a number of factors. Victim fear of reprisal violence or military discharge, “lost” rape kits, and downright refusal of commanders to forward a sexual-based crime on to their superiors are only a few of the issues that stand between a victim and the justice that he or she seeks. In fact, the majority of all sexual assault cases have died in the office of the victim’s commander, who until recently had all jurisdiction whether or not to push a case forward or to close the investigation completely.

With the making of 2012’s Oscar nominated documentary The Invisible War, military sexual violence has brought out of the shadows and into the public dialogue. The film’s jarring and gut-wrenching depiction of rampant sexual violence in the military blows the whistle on policies related to sexual assault reporting in the U.S. armed forces. The film also uses interviews from a number of survivors of military sexual assault that serve as voices for the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have been silently suffering from such awful breaches of justice and security since the 1960s. The survivors in the film (both male and female) relate the horror inflicted upon them, not only by their perpetrators, but also by a military justice system that fails them. Many of the victims state that the pain they went through with the assault was nothing compared to the challenges that they went through in their attempts to seek justice, proper medical and psychological care for their trauma, and to return to some sort of normalcy in their lives.

The Invisible War

It is infuriating to see that young women and men have voluntarily joined the military only to be further conscripted to a violence that persists at a much more personal, haunting level. Often without anyone to confide in, the victim lives in a state of dual fear—fear of the enemy as well as a fear of the familiar. Sexual violence experienced in the military also leads to an increased risk of numerous social and mental health outcomes, including post-traumatic stress disorder, homelessness, unemployment, and substance abuse and drug addiction.

The government’s continued failure to admit to playing a part in the violation of so many servicemen and servicewomen by instead placing those seeking physical or mental health services on long waiting lists—or simply denying their claims forthright—is an extreme denial of medical justice for survivors while also being a systematic denial of human rights. Additionally, learning about the sheer magnitude of sexual assault perpetrated within the U.S. military service brings extra ire to those that continue to denounce the U.S. government’s decision to allow women on the front lines of military conflict. By arguing that men will throw their own safety to the wayside in an attempt to protect women first at all cost to themselves and their mission, the mere notion becomes a slap in the face where intramiltary sexual violence remains endemic.

After viewing The Invisible War in April of last year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered that the Pentagon ensure that the prosecution of these crimes be bumped up to the handling level of colonel and Navy captain—pulling this authority from frontline commanders who often seek to downplay such incidents and protect the perpetrators, either as a way to protect their friends or their own ranks. It is also now mandated that individuals who allege abuse by a fellow recruit or superior be granted immediate transfer to another company during the investigation and beyond, and Panetta has called for the establishment of special victims units within each branch of the military to document and investigate all sexual assault crimes. Additionally, the “moral waiver” (by which a number of convicted rapists were allowed to enter the military) has recently been overturned by an amendment introduced by California Senator Barbara Boxer that prevents individuals with a sex crime on their record from joining the military.

Panetta’s recent rulings may have targeted some key battles, but with thousands of instances of military sexual violence reported each year and the incidence of sexual violence in the military more than two times higher than that of the civilian population, the war rages on.

For individuals seeking to speak to someone about an instance of military sexual abuse, resources have been made available at https://www.safehelpline.org/ or 877-995-5247. The Invisible War will also make its television debut on PBS affiliates nationwide starting May 13 at 10 PM.

References:

ACLU. (2013). Blog of Rights: Military Sexual Violence. Web. Retrieved 19 April 2013 from http://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/sexual-assault-military.

Scout, B. (2013). Military Sexual Assault Hearings Begin. AAUW. March 20, 2013. Web. Retrieved 19 April 2013 from http://www.aauw.org/2013/03/20/sasc-hearings-begin/.

Steinhauer, J. (2013). Veterans Testify on Rapes and Scant Hope of Justice. The New York Times. March 14, 2013. Web. Retrieved 19 April 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/14/us/politics/veterans-testify-on-rapes-and-scant-hope-of-justice.html?_r=2&.

U.S. Department of Defense. (2012). Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response (SAPRO). Web. Retrieved 19 April 2013 from http://www.sapr.mil/.

Zornkick, G. (2013). New Study Demands Zero-Tolerance for Military Sexual Assault. The Nation. March 26, 2013. Web. Retrieved 19 April 2013 from http://www.thenation.com/blog/173522/new-study-demands-zero-tolerance-military-sexual-assault#.

Intimate Partner Violence in Georgia, and the Violence Against Women Act

This week in class we discussed the legal considerations of violence, with specific discussion of the prosecution of perpetrators of interpersonal violence (IPV).  Dr.  Kay Levine’s lecture and assigned readings looked at how few domestic violence crimes actually get prosecuted and sentenced in this country.  There are multiple biases (or at least pre-conceived notions) that play into how (or whether) domestic violence crimes are prosecuted and sentenced, such as the belief that a violent crime between two intimate people is somehow less severe than the same crime between strangers; or that a crime between two people of the same socioeconomic class seems to be less “offensive” than an upwardly mobile crime; and that a sexual assault between two people who know each other does not fit the concept of a “real” rape (Grosso, Baldus, & Woodworth, 2010;  Daly & Bouhours, 2010; .

The timing of this discussion was appropriate, after a year of bipartisan bickering in Congress over the reauthorization of The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  The Act finally passed in February of this year, after being allowed to expire in 2012, for the first time since it’s initial passage in 1994.   Despite GOP efforts, the law was expanded to include additional provisions to protect members of Native American tribes and those living in such territories (who were not receiving protection previously), and to specifically include people in the LGBT community (who have historically been marginalized with regards to protections from interpersonal violence).  As well, the law includes protections for men and boys, and strengthens federal penalties and further enables prosecution of rape crimes.    The Act funds training of law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges on the realities of domestic violence, and requires that protection orders be recognized in all states and tribal and territorial jurisdictions within the U.S.

Not surprisingly, here in Georgia, both Republican Senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, voted against the VAWA, as did each of the nine Republican congressmen in the state.  (One representative, Paul Broun, went so far as to vote, along with eight Republican Congressmen from other states, against a resolution to allow the House of Representatives to even consider re-authorization of the Act.)  Only the five Democrats in the state voted in favor of the bill.  Some rhetoric notwithstanding (regarding funding in the face of uncontrolled national debt, and the assertion that domestic violence is an issue to be managed by individual states), in general, Republican legislators have opposed VAWA because of the specific inclusion of Native American women and LGBT women. In fact, they introduced (but failed to get passed) a version of the bill that did not include such language.

Sadly, this knuckle dragging by Georgia legislators is reflected in the state’s handling of domestic violence.   Georgia has consistently ranked poorly in its prevention of violence against women. In 2009, Georgia was the 10th highest in the nation in homicides of women by men, most of which were cases of IPV.  There seems to be a culture of acceptance of violence against women, as being partly appropriate and partly unavoidable, as evidenced by the need to separate myth from fact by the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which refutes claims that victims have done something to bring the abuse on themselves, or that abusers tend to be somehow disadvantaged (and therefore excused?).

Why are some legislators so opposed to a law that would fund proven successful efforts at preventing violent crimes against vulnerable people?  Unlike the limitless efforts by the NRA to prevent legislation to restrict availability of certain firearms, we can’t point the finger at an Anti-Female lobby spending huge sums of money to keep women in their place.  It can only be that gender biases and biases against alternative lifestyles still exist in too many minds of the gender that continues to dominate every branch of our government.   Which brings us back to our low rate of prosecution and sentencing of domestic violence crimes.

Related story:  (A photojournal of an IPV incident, by photographer Sara Naomi Lewcowicz on Time Lightbox.)


References:

Curry, T. R. (2010).  The conditional effects of victim and offender ethnicity and victim gender on sentences for non-capital cases.  Punishment & Society, 12:4 (p. 438-462).

Daly, K.; & Bouhours, B. (2010). Rape and attrition in the legal process: a comparative analysis of five countries. Crime and Justice, 39:1 (2010) (pp. 565-650)

Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2012. Myths and facts.  http://gcadv.org/general-resources/common-myths-about-domestic-violence/

Grosso, C. M.; Baldus, D. C.; Woodworth, G. (2010). The role of intimacy in the prosecution and sentencing of capital murder cases in the U.S. Armed Forces, 1984 – 2005. New Mexico Law Review.

Israel, J. (2013). The nine Republican men who won’t consider the Violence Against Women Act. Thinkprogress. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/02/27/1649381/nine-republican-men-against-vawa/

Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives (2013). http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2013/roll055.xml

Whitehouse.gov (2013). http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/vawa_factsheet.pdf

Social Causes of Violence

stop-sign

Image courtesy of http://blog.thephoenix.com/BLOGS/onthedownload/archive/2010/02/17/boston-youth-violence-prevention-community-on-big-city-101-3-fm.aspx

What causes an individual to engage in criminal and violent behavior?

This week my life has been impacted by violence: a mentor and friend of mine committed suicide by shooting himself; I observed juvenile court proceedings one day in which the docket started and ended with cases of kids bringing knives to school; and a friend told me how she was having difficulty because her two-year-old son was the “biter” in class in response to social stress. These three examples demonstrate a range of violence from a middle-aged man (self-directed) and two teenagers who possessed weapons at school and a two-year-old in daycare (directed at others).

Professor Robert Agnew outlines that sociologists have elaborated at least 3 different theories about why people engage in violence.

1. Strain Theory: While most individuals cope with strains in a legal way, strains (or stressors) increase the likelihood an individual will commit crime. Strains that are most likely to result in crime include harsh/excessive/unfair discipline; child abuse and neglect; negative school experiences; abusive peer relations; work in “bad” jobs; unemployment; marital problems; criminal victimization; discrimination; homelessness; or failure to achieve certain goals. Strains create negative emotions and one method of coping is violence. The self-directed violence by my friend may have been influenced by his failure to achieve certain goals (he thought his performance at work was not where it should be) and relationships in his personal life. One boy accused of bringing a knife to school brought it because he was afraid of being attacked by other kids on the way to school. The best way to reduce the negative impact of strains it to help equip individuals with traits and skills necessary to avoid strains and to avoid and to alleviate social and economic stress. Programs that might promote that goal include parental training programs and anti-bullying campaigns.

2. Social Learning Theory: suggests that an individual learns behavior (including criminal or violent behavior) by observation. People learn how to act from their environment. Elements of the social environment that impact behavior include its values, beliefs, nature and operation of the family, school, church, community, and peer groups. One way the environment impacts behavior is that certain behavior is rewarded and other behavior results in being punished. This theory utilizes concepts of there is what is called positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement, in the context of violence, is when you engage in violence and something good happens. Negative reinforcement is where you engage in violence and something bad is removed. For example, when the child bit the other kid who was too close to him, biting made the child go away. Upon the bite, the bitten child gave him more space. Positive reinforcement would say that the biter problem, for example, can be addressed by giving the child candy when he comes home from day care if he hasn’t bitten anyone. Teaching values and belies that counter violence and crime may be beneficial.

3. Control Theory: asks the question “why do most of us not commit deviance?” Societal social control mechanisms in society dissuade people from being deviant. These relationships may be between individuals or the community at large. People’s relationships and values encourage them to follow the laws of their community. This theory explains why people do not always act on their deviant impulses. If you have strong social bonds connecting you to other people in the community you are less likely to commit crime. This bond makes someone more likely to conform to the laws and values of the community Someone with weak bonds to those in the community are more likely to commit crime. Community development programs, education improvements, and parental training programs can strengthen an individual’s bond with the community.

Professor Agnew explained that each theory has merit but serious violent offenses are often the result of a combination of factors. Given this conclusion, it seems that a combination of policies and programs suggested as solutions under each theory may be warranted.

Information conveyed in this post comes from lecture given by Professor Agnew to our class on February 11th at Emory, 2013 and the articles Control and Social Disorganization Theory by Robert Agnew published in The Routledge Handbook of Deviant Behavior; Strain Theories by Robert Agnew published in 21st Century Criminology A Reference Handbook Volume 1; Social Learning and Violent Behavior by Gary F. Jensen.

The Necessity of Understanding the Intangible Costs of Violence against Women

While violence against women is widespread world-wide and within the United States, I was recently surprised to discover that when measuring the cost of violence in an economic sense, the economic value of women is far less than that of men1. The next question to ask is – how exactly is “economic value” measured? One method, the human capitol approach, measures value in terms of participation in the labor market and wages earned. In this analysis, women, the elderly, and children are all assigned values less than that of men based on the fact that these groups earn lower wages on average and also have decreased overall participation and representation in the labor market. These measures however, are all intimately tied to “economic monetary value” and do not consider or take into account measures going beyond those directly related to the labor market.

A UN report on violence against women in 2005 addressed the need for expanding the ways in which economic value/cost is assessed2. The report separated the types of costs of violence against women into four different categories: direct tangible costs, indirect tangible costs, direct intangible costs and indirect intangible costs. Direct tangible costs include aspects that are typically assessed in cost measurement analyses including expenses paid and spent assessed by “measuring the goods and services consumed and multiplying by their unit cost.” Indirect tangible costs are also typically included in economic analyses and are typically measured as a loss of potential – including earnings and profits that would result from reduced productivity or loss of personal income due to decreased time at work. Usually these direct and indirect tangible costs have obvious monetary value that can be assessed through traditional means of economic analysis. The last two cost categories, indirect and direct intangible costs, however, present more difficult cost categories to measure. Indirect intangible costs “result indirectly from the violence, and have no monetary value” (in the traditional economic analysis sense), and can include the pain and suffering experienced by the woman and a resultant decreased overall quality of life. The indirect intangible costs also have no monetary value, but instead result indirectly from the violence, and can include the “negative psychological effects on children who witness violence,” or the decreased care a mother can provide after herself experiencing a traumatic or violent event. These indirect intangible costs are perhaps the least explored of the four cost categories. Recent evidence on the impacts of adverse early life environments on children would suggest that the indirect intangible cost category is perhaps the most biologically, socially and economically relevant category and thus necessitates further study and consideration.

In general, societal costs are dual-sided, with one side reflecting an analysis of economic changes related to monetary value, and the second side involving social consequences that may not be as easily measured. In particular when considering the cost of violence against women, the second societal cost, which includes health costs and effects on dependents of women affected by the violence indirectly, is not easily measured. In an early class discussion this semester on the biological bases and effects of violence, we discussed research demonstrating that women are often more prone to internalizing behaviors that can result in the development of and increased risk for psychiatric disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while men often exhibit externalizing behaviors following violence or traumatic experiences (such as aggression, violent behavior and crime). In fact, women are more likely to develop PTSD following an experience of trauma compared to men3. Understanding the biology behind these differences in susceptibility to PTSD development is of extreme importance.

In addition to the direct effects of violence on the woman, we must also consider the dependents (children, etc.) that are just as affected by the woman’s experience of violence. In fact, research has demonstrated that women experiencing domestic violence before becoming pregnant, have children who exhibit characteristics of children living in households with domestic violence, even if those children have been raised in safe environments4. There are several explanations for this phenomenon – biological factors and epigenetic mechanisms that occur in the mother as a result of experiencing extreme stress in the form of domestic violence may be passed on and predispose the child to having an increased risk for anxiety disorders and PTSD (see the recent blog post on transgenerational inheritance for more information). Additionally, the woman could continue to suffer from the traumatic experience and behaviorally develop a different mode of maternal care due to her increased stress, anxiety and depression, which can also adversely affect the developing child.

These intangible costs of violence against women represent huge potential cost categories both socially and economically. We must push to develop tools to document and measure the effects of violence against women on the second and third generation offspring. Biological research has shown that traumatic experiences in parental generations can be biologically transmitted/inherited by the offspring, and that these effects persist for several generations. We must enhance our sphere of understanding by developing ways to economically document these effects.

1Corso, P. S., Mercy, J. A., Simon, T. R., Finkelstein, E. A., & Miller, T. R. (2007). Medical costs and productivity losses due to interpersonal and self-directed violence in the United States. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(6), 474–482.

2Day, T., McKenna, K., Bowlus, A. (2005). The economic costs of violence against women: an evaluation of the literature – Expert brief compiled in preparation for the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against women. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/expert%20brief%20costs.pdf

3Breslau, N. (2001). The epidemiology of posttraumatic stress disorder: what is the extent of the problem? Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 62(17), 16-22.