Friday, April 18, 2008


Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
- Carl Jung

There is a violence awareness project going on in Houston this weekend. Several funeral homes have volunteered to drive their hearses, festooned with anti-violence signs, through “high crime areas” such as the 3rd Ward.

My initial thought is this: Do people who live in “high crime” areas already know they are at risk of violence? How are they being helped by being reminded?

I say this with respect to the people who are volunteering on this project. I’m glad people are willing to volunteer their time to make life better. I do have a suggestion for the hearse drivers for their next awareness project.

How about driving through the business area of the Galleria, downtown Houston, or maybe River Oaks? Don’t people die because they don’t have access to health insurance, and as a result, proper health care? Aren't people's options limited because of inability to make a living wage? Isn’t this a type of violence? An injustice? Maybe if we raise awareness, people who have access to power and money will be motivated to make changes?

Anna Quinlan in her book Black and Blue writes about a domestic violence victim who fled from her abusive husband. She ran with her son, leaving everyone and everything she knew. She changed her name and went deep into hiding. When the woman wouldn’t “follow the rules” about staying in hiding, her caseworker told her she could die if she didn’t do what she was told. The woman thought about how her caseworker was no different than her abusive husband – both threatened her with death to get her under control. We in the criminal justice system do this too. When a woman doesn't want to pursue charges or cooperate with the police, we tell her she is going to die if she doesn't do what we say. We mean to help her, but really, how are WE different that HIM. If you don't do what we say, you'll die.

So – people who live in “high crime” areas and battered women – they all know where they live, what they face. As a matter of coping, maybe they don’t sit around and think about it all the time. So, maybe instead of threats, we could offer compassion? We could ask instead, how we can help. We can empower people to make their own lives better. We can raise awareness about the causes of violence. We can address larger issues such as poverty, racism, and sexism that increase violence. We can demand accountablity from the sources of power.


Liz said...

i just stumble across this blog and really like it! keep on writing!

CJ Social Worker said...

Aw, shucks. Thanks! Stop by anytime.