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Early Intervention: One Way to Prevent Mass Violence?

Early Intervention: One Way to Prevent Mass Violence?

September 26, 2016

A connection between violence on a mass scale and violence on an intimate level is emerging as our nation reels from a string of mass shootings over the last two years.

Court records show that the suspect (20-year-old Arcan Cetin) in this past weekend’s Washington State mall shooting has three domestic violence charges from his past.

Earlier this year it was shown that the Orlando shooter had a history of domestic violence. And then last year, in the Colorado tragedy, the killer was the abuser. In San Bernardino, the male killer grew up in a home affected by domestic violence.

It seems like domestic and family violence is far too often part of the picture when it comes to violence on a mass scale.

It turns out this is not a coincidence. Last year, the New York Times reported that 462 people have died and 1, 314 have been wounded in shootings involving four or more people. Surely, that number has only grown since then. Shockingly, that averages out to more than one a day. And, perhaps not as surprisingly, domestic violence was usually a factor in the killers’ lives. According to the Times, “In 57 percent of the cases, the victims included a current or former intimate partner or family member of the attacker.

There has never been a more compelling reason to ensure that everyone who are victims of family violence, or witnesses to it, receive treatment and support.

For example, we know that children who witness and experience violence have a greater chance of growing up to experience a host of negative, life-altering outcomes that can range from becoming abusers themselves, to experiencing physical and  mental health challenges, to developing addictions or having a run-in with the criminal justice system.

At Safe Horizon, we have a powerful belief that we can reduce violence in our society by providing speedy, expert mental health care to child witnesses who may also be victims. Every year we help nearly 3, 000 children and families recover from the most severe physical and sexual abuse in New York City, but we know thousands more cases are never reported.

Imagine the fear, confusion, anger and profound loss that these children are facing and how that trauma, if left untreated, could lead to tragic outcomes for these future teens, future adults, and also for our society at large.

Many things need to change in our society before killings like those in Washington, Florida, Colorado and California end, instead of being a frequent occurrence.

We absolutely need decisive action on gun violence, for a start.

But we also know that we can help reduce the daily bloodshed in our society by not only intervening sooner, but also supporting victims more fully. Only by so doing will we build a society free of family and community violence.

A previous version of this article appeared in the Huffington Post. It has seen been updated to reflect the recent tragedies in Washington and Orlando.

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