Community violence broadly understood is any violence that takes place in the community, but it has only been recently understood to include intimate partner violence. In the public domain, the stress and strain of living and witnessing community violence produces a decreased sense of civic control and increased levels of aggression, and contributes to the loss of collective efficacy. Community and intimate partner violence are particularly pernicious in terms of how they affect children. In private spheres, violence has direct and indirect effects on children. Children in homes experiencing partner violence are significantly more likely to become victims of physical abuse or neglect than are children in homes that are not violent. Indirectly, children who live in violent homes have a dampened ability to relate to the public world and are more likely to become victims of partner and other forms of violence as adults.
Approaches to preventing partner violence and child maltreatment tend to focus on individual rather than community change. Some consider these approaches to be shortsighted, ultimately producing suboptimal program efforts, as violence in the home and violence in the community are intricately connected, with spillover effects from each to the other. Community residents tend to treat violence in the home as private, though they may recognize the connection between the actions of those who commit violence in the streets and those who are violent or witness violence in their homes. Residents are often reluctant to intervene directly in instances of violence within the private domain, though they have become increasingly engaged in efforts to end violence in their communities.
There is growing interest in examining a broader approach to preventing partner violence by engaging community residents. One practice model, the Institute for Community Peace (ICP), believes that residents should be at the forefront of efforts to prevent not only public violence, but also violence that occurs in the home. It has found that gains in community safety are not sustainable unless there is also peace in the home. While building community capacity to understand the root causes of violence, ICP learned that residents were awakened to the prevalence of intimate partner violence and eventually engaged this form of violence as part of a comprehensive strategy for community peace.
Another practice model, Close to Home, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, takes a more direct approach to involving the community to prevent intimate partner violence. Close to Home is a resident driven domestic violence prevention and community organizing campaign that seeks to prevent domestic violence by educating, supporting, and developing leadership from the existing network of friends, family, and neighbors. The program strategically engages the strengths of social networks and values and trusts community members’ ability to develop safe, meaningful, and effective responses to domestic violence in their own neighborhoods. It works to mobilize the neighborhood’s civic life through dialogue and problem solving to address domestic violence as a priority community issue. Both programs acknowledge the need for changes in norms, values, and action by community residents and the broader society to foster peace in homes and communities.
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- Hambien, J., & Goguen, C. (n.d.). Community violence: National Center for PTSD fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_ comm_violence.html
- Lynch, M., & Cicchetti, D. (1998). An ecologicaltransactional analysis of children and contexts: The longitudinal interplay among child maltreatment, community violence, and children’s symptomatology. Development and Psychopathology, 10, 235–257.
- National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control. (2006). Understanding intimate partner violence. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/ipv_factsheet
- Overstreet, S. (2000). Exposure to community violence: Defining the problem and understanding the consequences. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9, 7–25.
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