By Stephanie L. Mann - Published by the Bay Area News Group
James Holmes, accused of killing 12 people
murder of 12 and wounding of 58 people at a theater in Aurora, Colo.
and the killings of seven in a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee are
national tragedies sparking debate on gun control. Based on my
experience as a crime and violence prevention consultant over the past
35 years, I see a need to share what I have learned about violence.
seed for violent behavior begins at home. Good or bad, parents are
teachers. Disconnected families in conflict often fail to teach children
how to develop healthy relationships. Mental, physical or sexual
abuse can make even the most intelligent child anti-social. If
children's needs are not met, they can be thrown off balance, resulting
in anger and feeling powerless. These children can become targets for
abuse at school, becoming isolated and alone. Peers and society
also influence impressionable youth. The breakdown in American culture
has created a "perfect storm" for violent behavior.
conflict, divorce and abuse can create confusion for children. They
often suffer in silence or become bullies with little compassion for
others. If adults don't listen, set boundaries, calmly discipline and
demonstrate personal responsibility, children become frustrated and
Without guidance and emotional support, children may fail to mature emotionally and often alienate classmates. Children who excel in school can develop an inflated ego and feel smarter than others
Lacking self-awareness, revenge can become a way to get back at society for the pain they have suffered. Without
a conscience, emotionally unstable youth can become obsessed and decide
to play "God" in other people's lives, which can turn deadly.
many cities, neighbors are strangers. They expect someone else to solve
problems and don't see their role in keeping the neighborhood safe.
This attitude creates social isolation with no check or balance on
youthful misbehavior that can develop at an early age. Neighbors must
become role models and demonstrate an interest in neighborhood kids.
residents allow fear to divide and conquer. Cities deteriorate as
pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, gangs and the homeless take over the
streets. Neighbors don't report criminal behavior and may even protect
criminals who do favors for them. Crime goes unchecked, which allows
gangs to fill the void. Without adult leadership, youth may turn to
drugs, sex or other addictions to feel good while everyone else feels
Movies and television promote sex and violence because
it sells. Man's weakness is sex. Woman's weakness is tempting men. The
entertainment industry reinforces human weaknesses.
engage in sex without understanding the consequences. Children are
desensitized as men and women devalue themselves and live
self-destructive lives, which can turn violent as moral values
disappear. We become what we promote as disconnected youth feel angry,
alone and nobody cares.
There are thousands of churches, temples
and synagogues in America; however, they don't work to inform the
community about the power of the human spirit. During the past 50 years,
the religious community has lost much of its influence after numerous
scandals including pastors stealing from congregations and the abuse of
Many churches became political action groups as
religious leaders did little to bring the community together, spread the
need for spiritual values or demonstrate the power of "love thy
Every adult needs to know community support helps raise successful children.
Here are two things we can do today:
First, create a network of support around children to help them learn
how to develop healthy relationships. Group participation teaches
children to respect others and develop self-control. Network with
friends and neighbors, and get children involved in a variety of groups.
Second, find emotional support for children at a house of worship of
your choice. Help children discover their spiritual center so they don't
become bullies or victims. Children can discover their identity and
become responsible and self-aware. They will learn how to get along with
peers and become better citizens.
control is not the solution to this complex problem. Government cannot
fill the void with more laws or by increasing control over American
lives. Concerned citizens must work together to strengthen families,
organize to make neighborhoods safe for children and get involved to
make communities peaceful places to live. Everyone will benefit as children grow up healthy, happy and able to reach their potential.