Violence. It’s the act of purposefully hurting someone. And it’s a major issue facing today’s young adults.
One in 12 high schoolers is threatened or injured with a weapon each year. People between the ages of 12 and 25 face the highest risk of being the victim of violence.
At the same time, statistics show that by the early 1990s, the incidence of violence caused by young people reached unparalleled levels in American society.
There is no single explanation for the overall rise in youth violence. Many different factors cause violent behavior. The more these factors are present in a person’s life, the more likely they are to commit an act of violence.
Factors that contribute to violent behavior include:
• peer pressure
• need for attention or respect
• feelings of low self worth
• early childhood abuse or neglect
• witnessing violence at home, in the community or in the media
• easy access to weapons
Reasons for Violence
What causes someone to punch, kick, stab or fire a gun at someone else or even him/herself?
There is never a simple answer to that questions. But people often commit violence because of one or more of the following:
Expression. Some people use violence to release feelings of anger or frustration. They think there are no answers to their problems and turn to violence to express their out-of-control emotions.
Manipulation. Violence is used as a way to control others or get something they want.
Retaliation. Violence is used to retaliate against those who have hurt them or someone they care about.
Violence is a learned behavior. Like all learned behaviors, it can be changed. This isn’t easy, though. Since there is no single cause of violence, there is no one simple solution. The best solution is to learn to recognize the warning signs and get help.
Often people who act violently have trouble controlling their feelings. They may have been hurt by others. Some think that making people fear them through violence or threats of violence will solve their problems or earn them respect. This isn’t true. People who behave violently lose respect. They find themselves isolated or disliked, and they still feel angry and frustrated.
Immediate warning signs include:
• loss of temper on a daily basis
• significant vandalism or property damage
• increase in use of drugs or alcohol
• increase in risk-taking behavior
• detailed plans to commit acts of violence
• announcing threats or plans for hurting others
• enjoying hurting animals
• carrying a weapon
The following signs over a period of time could mean the potential for violence:
• a history of violent or aggressive behavior
• serious drug or alcohol use
• gang membership or strong desire to be in a gang
• access to or fascination with weapons, especially guns
• threatening others regularly
• trouble controlling feelings of anger
• withdrawal from friends and usual activities
• feeling rejected or alone
• having been a victim of bullying
• poor school performance
• history of discipline problems or frequent run-ins with authority
• feeling constantly disrespected
• failing to acknowledge the feelings or rights of others.
What To Do
Above all, be safe. Don’t spend time alone with people who show warning signs.
If possible, without putting oneself in danger, remove the person from the situation that’s setting them off.
Tell a trusted family member, guidance counselor, teacher, school psychologist, coach, clergy, school resource officer or friend about the concern.
Do not become a victim of violence, get someone in authority to protect you. Do not resort to violence or use a weapon to protect yourself.
The key to preventing violent behavior is asking an experienced professional for help. The most important thing to remember is don’t go it alone.