August 2, 2021

Ep. 4: Violentization (part 2)

Justice Voices
Justice Voices
Ep. 4: Violentization (part 2)

Show Notes

Justice Voices
Justice Voices
Ep. 4: Violentization (part 2)

The root cause of violentization is trauma from chronic exposure to violence, usually beginning in childhood or adolescence. Victims of violence become victimizers.

Why? Because at some point the victim of chronic violence makes the decision that this is a violent, dog-eat-dog world and that to avoid being a victim of violence one must become more violent and dangerous than potential abusers or attackers – to essentially fight fire with fire.

In part 1 of this episode, we explored the five-stage adaptive process of violentization described by criminologist researcher Lonnie Athens.

In this part 2 we turn to the all-important question of prevention and interventions to interrupt and even reverse the violentization process at both the individual and community levels.

A disease model is used for practical perspective.

To reduce serious criminal violence, reduce and effectively treat violent trauma.

Host David Risley maintains the solutions to serious criminal violence fall into four buckets: trauma, jobs, incentives, and educating the public.

At the highest and most difficult end of the violentization scale, ultraviolent and predatory violent people are so dangerous, resistant to de-violentization, and malignant in their effect on communities that there is rarely, if ever, a practical intervention alternative to long-term incapacitation through incarceration. But even then, treatment of violentization is sometimes possible.

At the lower end of the violentization scale, interventions include:

  • Multi-systemic therapy (MST), an example of which is the Greater Bronzeville Community Action Plan being implemented in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood through a partnership between the University of Chicago’s Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention and Bright Star Community Outreach, a faith-based community service organization delivering trauma counseling and other services to individuals, households, and even local police officers.
  • Schools, often best positioned to observe the early symptoms of violentization such as defiance and aggression, and sometimes also to deliver trauma-informed therapy and other support services, especially when the trauma arises from domestic violence or other abuse.
  • Parenting education, especially for children raising children.
  • Trauma-informed counseling, an example of which is the TURN Center, a program constituting an element of the Greater Bronzeville Community Action Plan. A notable feature of the TURN Center program is it is largely modeled after the program and services delivered by the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terrorism and War (NATAL), representatives of which have trained TURN Center personnel.
  • Antiviolence group resocialization, which Lonnie Athens recommends for adolescents and adults in the middle stages of violentization, perhaps conducted in settings such as a youth hostel, ideally led by former violent offenders hired due to their credibility with the target audience and trained to conduct such programs.

Restorative justice programs and community and problem-solving policing are also important, but deserve fuller discussion in their own episodes. In the meantime, more on those topics is found on the antiviolence strategy paper published on David Risley’s personal website at

Finally, what may be the knottiest problem of them all: the resource riddle.

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