Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How do we reduce violent crime?

I was asked at a seminar I gave this week a question I am asked a lot; In my opinion what could/should be done to reduce violent crime in our country. As my opinion is just that, my opinion, I thought I would share it here too.

The usual answers given to this question involve tougher penalties, more Police, more prisons etc, and although I agree that these things are all part of it, I truly believe that our only real chance of solving the violent crime problem is when enough people want to and commit to. More prisons, Police, courts, tougher penalties etc are fine but they are only part of the puzzle, the only true way that violent crime will reduce is if we all stop accepting and tolerating it in our society, our neighbourhoods, our friends, and in our own family. Violent crime is a moral problem which needs to be solved at a moral level and only this type of ‘get to the heart of it’ solution will work, in my opinion. I work every day in the field of violence prevention, I have seen firsthand real violence and the impact it has on those who it is delivered upon, and the resulting ripple effect on all those around them. It is toxic, corrosive, and destructive. I have worked with hundreds of survivors of violence in all of its different forms. I can not recall a single act of serious violence (not drunken brawls etc) that was committed by an offender that came from what would commonly be consider a positive background and supportive, caring family environment. The greatest majority of violent offenders are responsible for their actions, know right from wrong, made their own choices, and deserve to face the legal consequences of their actions. Occasionally one is born who is a true psychopath, but they are the vast, almost infinitesimal, minority. But in my opinion, far more violent criminals are ‘made’ than are ever born. This means that somewhere along the line, something went wrong. Someone who had an impact on them, who provided a profoundly negative influence could have instead provided a profoundly positive one, and that could have made all of the difference.

So in addition to more prisons, Police, tougher penalties etc, what we really need to make a difference is more love, understanding, empathy, and compassion. This is not me being idealistic or simplistic, it is at the true heart of the issue.

Many people will hear this message and dismiss it is being idealistic or think that the problem is too big for one person to make any difference. Some will embrace it and live it. When the ‘some’ become the majority, the ripple effect will be profound, and we will then have the answer to the question...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

With friends like those...

There is currently an ad campaign in New Zealand for the Alcohol Advisory Council called ‘ease up on the drink’. Here is one of the ads:

The reason I really liked this is because, looked at from a self defence (defence against others, rather than ourselves in this case) perspective it highlights an important consideration in the avoidance stage of self protection; that is knowing how your friends/spouse conduct themselves when out, particularly when alcohol is involved.

I have a friend who is a really good guy, and would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. But when we used to go out, as soon as he had a bit of alcohol in him, he would change. In keeping the theme of the ALACNZ ad, he would become:

“Stare everyone down, friend”
“Shoulder barge random people looking for a fight, friend”
“Mr no-shirt, invincible, friend”
“Hit on everyone’s girlfriend, friend”
“Break bottles, and anything else he could, friend”
“Get himself, and everyone else with him in trouble and ruin their night, friend”

I liked the ad because it encourages open communication, which is what I had to do with my mate. I told him it was not on and unless he changed the way he behaved, I no longer wanted to go out with him. I told him that I am not willing to be put into a fight and risk my safety, my life, my family’s happiness, or my freedom because he became a clown when he drinks too much. As it turned out, nothing changed so I don’t go out with him anymore , I refuse to be put in that situation. That is the first stage of self defence - avoidance through awareness and intuition - in action.
Understanding third party interference/influence is a part of the avoidance stage of self protection. My advice is that if you have mates who behave like this, have a hard word with them. If they refuse to change, stop going out with them in those environments. It may seem harsh, but a good mate will not knowingly put you in danger.

Food for thought anyway...