The Forum on Global Violence Prevention of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies convened a two-day public workshop that looked at the contagious nature of violence, the relationship between the contagion of violence and epidemics of violence, and how contagions of violence can be prevented or ended. Held in April 2012, the workshop summary is available online.
Presentations included research showing that violence can manifest and spread through various means including collective violence, interpersonal violence, and self-directed violence, and result in transmission of acceptability of the same or similar type of violence to which an individual was exposed.
Historical trauma, noted as the impact of cumulative emotional, psychological, and physical insult on individuals and communities, can also increase a person or community’s vulnerability to violence. The majority of presentations highlighted the impact of contextual factors, such as gender inequality, poverty, or living in an unsafe community; noting that place or environment can support the spread of violence as well as influence the availability and effectiveness of interventions.
Speakers also noted that the contagion of violence is dependent on social norms that support violence. That is, while social norms can increase susceptibility to violence, changing social norms can be a tool for interrupting the use of violence. Interventions that focus on changing norms can work to interrupt and ultimately prevent violence. It was stressed that interventions must address protective factors and recognizes the role of cultural resilience. Throughout the two-day workshop, presenters highlighted a variety of interventions that have been demonstrated to successfully reduce violence.
Social workers are trained to understanding the role of protective factors and cultural resilience, the importance of context and environment, and respect culture and cultural context. As the largest provider of mental health and behavioral health services, social workers around the globe are working in partnership to provide the interventions necessary to make change at the individual, community, and societal levels. As a profession, social workers advocate for laws and regulations that ensure safety within our homes, our schools, and the larger communities. Supported by the growing practice-based research on violence prevention, social workers are critical to the renewed efforts to recognize, address, interrupt and prevent violence.
NASW Senior Policy Advisor, Evelyn Tomaszewski, is a member of the Forum on Global Violence Prevention and served as a member of the workshop Planning Committee. Learn more about the research and discussions that occurred during the Contagion of Violence Workshop.
The next workshop convened by the Forum on Global Violence Prevention will address Evidence for Violence Prevention Across the Lifespan and Around the World – A Workshop Scheduled for January 23 – 24, 2013 in Washington, DC.