The Inconvenient Truth About Violence and Homicide in the United States

By: Curtis Peterson ©

 

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Arizona Western College – 2013 – Mentors for Violence Prevention Development Day

16 years ago, I responded to this employment ad for a shelter assistant at a local shelter. The ad required that person have at least completed some course work in social science. Given I was completing my bachelor’s degree in psychology at the time and needed a job, I went ahead and applied. The interview was at the local YWCA, in a large home that was converted into makeshift offices. My interview took place in what was probably once a large dining room, and the director who interviewed me was a large foreboding woman, who when she walked in you could feel and instantly respect her presence. We started the interview with the standard niceties such as greetings and introductions then she asked a question that at the time I did not know but would end up changing my life from that point forward. She asked, “What are domestic violence and sexual assault?” – after a long pause, I said, “Aww umm something my mom and dad said I better not ever do!!??” Well needless to say what was scheduled to be a 20-30 minute interview turned into a two and half hour educational experience on the dynamics of domestic violence and sexual assault. After that, for some reason, that executive director saw something in me that I did not recognize, and went ahead and hired me.

 

 

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Relationship between age of victim and age of offender for domestic homicides

That interview was a start of a journey that would take me into the deepest minds of victims, survivors, offenders, and psychopathic rapist and murders. It would expose me to violence starting as young as six months of age clear to the oldest victim I worked with who was 88 years old. It would show me the type of violence that doesn’t happen every so often, like mass shootings and terrorist acts, but violence and murder that occurs every day in American households across the United States. In fact, the reason why I titled this paper “The Inconvenient Truth” is because there could literally be a 24-hour news station that just covers domestic homicides and if they didn’t need revenue they could do it commercial free. The reason why this is inconvenient is that what we fear as Americans, such as terrorist and the “rogue” mass shooter, is not what we should be most fearful of, and that is the person living in our house and sleep next to every night. The inconvenient truth is, America does not have a terrorist problem, it has a family problem. A family problem, that has led to brutal violence, torture, and death of millions of Americans, and makes it, so the United States has the highest homicide rate of any of the 26 modern nations. Additionally, in a nation that prides itself on supporting its police forces, every day we place officers in situations that give them the highest risk of not going home to their family: a domestic disturbance call. Notice I did not say a riot, gang shooting, mass shooting, or terrorist activity – no – our law enforcement is more likely to be shot and killed by a married couple who are arguing and it has turned violent. Yes, the bottom line once again even our protectors are not safe in our American homes.

 

If you are reading this, I hope you are feeling the dissonance, and hope that I will say something that diverts the blame of violence in the United States away from families to some group. I know, blaming others, would “feel” nice, but unfortunately, it would just be covering up the truth about the nature of violence in the United States. Sorry domestic homicide and family violence only have one source, it cannot be blamed on minority groups, white privilege, ISIS, Muslims, Christianity, LGBT groups, or yes even those godless atheists. Sadly, the source of domestic homicide is the family, community, and beliefs we hold about each other. I am not talking religious beliefs. I am talking beliefs about what we think we have the right to when something in our family goes wrong. I am talking about when a person loses a sense of power, or when a person does not behave to our expectations – to act out and force those individuals to get them back in line. If you do not believe me scroll through your Facebook and see how conservatives and liberals bully each other because they do not hold the same perspective, or how there is this standard that men and women must hold to be a “good boyfriend” or a “good girlfriend.” Let stop kidding ourselves that we are a good and virtues people and instead let us start acting like good and virtues people. If you value human life, then stop giving a blind eye to people who assault life through their actions and behaviors. Stop doing what a psychopathic serial killer told me once and that saying and thinking “I like you Mr. Peterson, but you should know I could shove that pencil in your ear and through your head and walk away and think nothing about it”. We do this every day, with our insults without understanding, with our ignoring of family problems, and with our focus on things that should not evoke as much fear as what we do to each other in our homes and communities.

 

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Graph indicates the increase in infant homicides between the 70s and 90s, it has kept that steady increase up to today and is expected to continue unless something changes.

Let us be real about who we are as a nation, while all forms of violence including homicide have been on the steady decrease in the United States since the 1990s, there is one that has been on a noticeable fast increase. The type of violence that has been on the steady increase starting in 2000 is infanticide. Yes, United States citizens are killing more infants than we did since the 1940s. No this is not abortions or some psychopathic murder issue, this is out of mommy’s womb infant under the age of two who are being killed – on purpose – by their parents or primary caregiver. I am hoping this information is sobering, to a Nation that prides itself on peace and freedom. If we are truly a nation that values the life of others, especially children, then why is there no national movement to stop infant homicide, which outnumbers abortions 6 to 1? Or a call on governmental interventions that protect and honor the safety and life of our most vulnerable population?

 

 

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Relation between homicides and immigration rates in the United States

With this in mind, I like to bring home the point that this is an American issue. I know we have a national movement to limit immigration, but I am hoping by this point the reader is starting to see we do not have an “other people problem” we have an “us problem.” Indeed, when we look at immigration, we find that after a period of increased immigration we see a marked reduction in violence and homicide in the United States. That right, violence comes from the American culture, and when we bring in diversity through immigration we make us less violent. So, if you want to blame our violence problems on Mexican or Muslim immigrants just know you are a source of the problem and not a solution.

 

 

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Grandpa and Granddaughter – reason I will continue to fight.

If you have made it through this article without getting angry and frustrated and deciding you did not want to read further, I thank you and would like to close with a few remarks about the time I have spent in the field of violence intervention and prevention. First, as the people who are close to me and know me, I have been trying to escape this field since almost the day I started. Most of my personal problems have centered around my desire to not to deal with other people’s violence and the desire to be blissfully ignorant to all the pain and suffering that I heard on a daily life as a professional. Even my education has tried to bail me out, my master’s degree focused on organizational psychology, and my doctorate has focused on social psychology, which I hoped would put a layer of distance between me and violence. Sadly for me, these choices have to lead me deeper into the understanding of violence. Indeed, it has helped me recognize that we do not have a psychopath problem, a mental illness problem, or even a gun problem – no, we have a community and family problem. Every time, I thought I had escaped the field it has a way of dragging me back in kicking and screaming. The latest is my dismay on national attention being placed on the not so real problems of violence and homicide in the United States. All in all, I have experienced what a clinical person, social worker, criminologist, and criminal justice experts only think or dream of having, and I would trade it all to be able to live in a community where neighbors trust each other and strangers are viewed as potential friends instead of threats. I would trade my experiences knowing a child is born into a world where parents and caregivers care and nurture them, a world where intimate partners did not use each other for their own selfish needs but instead lifted each other up and supported one another. Finally, I trade my experiences for a United States that actually care about the humanity and welfare of others on this little planet. But, I have come to the conclusion that unless I keep fighting and helping people those dreams will never come true, my friends let us not get to our death bed thinking “I could have done more, but I didn’t.”. I hope you will join me in this crusade.

 

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psycguypeterson

Social Psychologist

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