A new approach to restore hope following public violence

More than 70 percent of Americans, believe public violence is an inevitable part of life and nearly as many worry that a member of their family will be injured in such an incident.

Public violence is a random violent act that traumatizes a community. While shootings often produce the biggest headlines, public violence also includes hate crimes, threats and incidents using vehicles and knives.

When a natural or technological disaster occurs, faith based and other voluntary nonprofits follow established protocols and collaborate with local public safety officials to build community resilience. But when public violence occurs, there are no protocols to guide the whole community in its response. Without a whole community approach, the result is misinformation, fragmentation of services, unaddressed trauma, recurring cycles of violence, and a growing sense of hopelessness.

Random incidents of public violence that traumatize a community occur every day in the United States. If incidents are not comprehensively addressed, entire communities may become traumatized (Pinderhughes, Davis and Williams). The U.S. spends more than $460 billion annually to contain violence (PAEI) and millions to try to prevent it, but anti-violence programs rarely reach those already traumatized by violence.

The total number of unidentified traumatized people is growing rapidly and contributing to new cycles of violence. In 2014, 58% of children 17 years old or younger witnessed or experienced violence (NatSCEV-II). Substance abuse, depression and violent crime have all been linked to unaddressed trauma, particularly in children.

The Center for Public Violence Recovery (CPVR) proposes the creation of a new Public Violence Resilience Framework to help residents transform the current culture of fear into hope for their lives. Local Public Violence Resilience Coalitions of faith-based and human services nonprofits, public health agencies, emergency management and local government agencies are expected to implement the framework with a goal of restoring healthy and resilient communities. When a community is prepared to care for itself following public violence, the psychosocial health of each individual is improved (Flynn).

CPVR will collaborate with partners to sponsor national conferences and regional forums to share best practices, recent research, and discuss how new roles and initiatives will improve community-based response to public violence. The Center will also host a Website to share best practices and related research.

Change is never easy. Faith leaders, communicators, human services nonprofits, trauma and public health professionals, public safety, emergency managers and educators will be needed to collaborate in pilot communities where components of the framework are evaluated and revised. As pilots are successful in building whole community public violence resilience, new protocols and response roles will be established.

To learn how to bring transforming hope to your community contact the Center for Public Violence Recovery at (443) 320-0440 or send an email to [email protected]