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Preventing Violence

Exponent article by Dr Brian Kassarr
Counseling & Psychological Services

The statistics on violent acts committed in this country are sobering: homicide is the seventh leading cause of death for men (fourth leading cause for Latinos & African-Americans); one in ten men aged 15-24 carry a weapon; one in 4 women will be a victim of sexual assault; 5-10% of reported sexual assaults involve male victims and heterosexual assailants; 30% of female homicide victims were murdered by a male partner; and one half of adolescent boys surveyed stated they'd been in a fight in the last year. Men's violence towards women and other men is shockingly high, and it's time to stop.

Violence comes in many forms: physical (hitting, pushing, fighting), sexual (rape); and emotional (ridiculing, coercion, inappropriate anger/jealousy). Whether it's verbal aggression and intimidating posturing to another man at a bar or domestic battering, it's violent and it's wrong.

Most violent acts are about power-the person committing them is trying to achieve or regain power, dominance, and control over another person. Violence often arises from a sense of misguided power or entitlement: the person committing violence becomes enraged and aggressive because the other person threatened his sense of power by not providing what he wants. In our patriarchal culture, men often hold power and privilege and when that is challenged they may resort to violence to reclaim it.

ALL men certainly aren't violent, yet men are most often the perpetrators of violence. Several possibilities may explain why this is the case. Biology-the fact that men have higher levels of testosterone-is often used to explain violence. High levels of testosterone does contribute to aggression, and this once served an important survivalist function. However, our minds and society have advanced to a point where we don't need to rely solely upon aggression to survive or meet our needs.

Men are socialized to be more aggressive and violent. Boys are encouraged to learn to fight and "be tough" to protect them from being victimized or being labeled a "sissy." Men are taught to aggressively go for what they want and are praised for being "go-getters." When boys fight there is little reaction beyond "boys will be boys." Violence is viewed as brave and heroic in sports and movies. These societal messages, coupled with the ones men receive to suppress emotions of fear, hurt, and pain, can contribute to increased violence.

Violence prevention starts early. Parents, teachers and adults can help boys by teaching them non-violent ways to express themselves. Teaching a boy how to walk away from a fight or how to verbally diffuse conflict and reach a compromise is much more productive than teaching him how to land a right hook. Men need to learn how to appropriately mange anger and act in ways that are assertive rather than aggressive. Men also need to be aware of privilege, power, and entitlement, as well as reconstruct their views of what is "masculine" in order to decrease violence. If you feel you have a problem with violence or anger, seek the help of a professional.

View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 12/17/08
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