Violence Prevention


Sonoma County Man Learns to Control Anger and Violence


Jon Wheeler, 35, struggled with his own abusive behaviors before finding Men Evolving Non-Violently (M.E.N.). The organization has helped the Occidental resident change his behavior and now he leads support groups for other men.

Editor’s Note: Jon Wheeler used to have a difficult time controlling his anger in romantic relationships. As part of our occasional series, “What’s Your Story?” Wheeler shares how a group in Santa Rosa called Men Evolving Non-Violently, or M.E.N., helped him change his abusive behaviors. Now, he leads those same groups, helping other men who struggle with violent behavior.

By Jon Wheeler

I’d be in a relationship with a woman and whatever was going on in the relationship, I would respond to it with anger. Like, I might even tell you in my words that I’m supporting you, but my tone of voice would say, ‘You’re an idiot and I don’t respect you.’ And I’ve been physically violent with a woman a few times in my life. It has come to that.

I felt guilty for my behavior, and I could see the way that I was acting was driving away a person that I was trying to hold close. Continue reading

After Surviving Shooting, Oakland Youth Works to Prevent Violence

Caheri Gutierrez, before the shooting.

Caheri Gutierrez, before the shooting.

Last weekend was an especially violent one, even for Oakland. On Friday, four people were killed, and over the rest of the weekend, 11 people were shot, though not fatally. There were 126 homicides [PDF] in Oakland last year, cementing the city’s distinction as one of California’s more violent urban centers. Oakland certainly doesn’t have a lock on gun violence. Other cities like Stockton are struggling, too. But the situation in Oakland has been going on for some time now, and locals are giving a lot of thought to what it means to live under the constant threat of violence.

As part of KQED’s occasional series, “What’s Your Story,” Oakland native Caheri Gutierrez (pronounced “Carrie”) shares her story about working with at-risk high schools students after she herself was shot in the face as a teenager. Guiterrez is a Violence Prevention Educator for Youth Alive, an Oakland non-profit with a mission to prevent youth violence. Below are excerpts of my conversation with her:

“‘They shot you. They shot you.’ I touched my face and my hand just went inside of my face.”

“I was just in the car and all of a sudden I started to feel like I was getting electrified. It was really intense shocks from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. The guy that was driving, my friend, starts screaming that he’s been shot. Continue reading

President Obama Ends Research Freeze on Gun Violence

(Image: Kaiser Health News)

We think of the Centers for Disease Control as collecting data on just about everything. But scientists say a lack of funding and political pressure had long prevented them from researching gun violence. And not just the possible causes of violence — but data collection around specific acts of violence.

On Wednesday, the president addressed the need to look for those causes in his proposals to curb gun violence. In a section [PDF] titled “End the Freeze on Gun Violence Research,” the president directs the CDC to research gun violence and also wants Congress to pony up $20 million to expand the national database on violent deaths.

“We don’t benefit from ignorance,” Obama said. “We don’t benefit from not knowing the science from this epidemic of violence.”

From the president’s plan:

… for years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other scientific agencies have been barred by Congress from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” and some members of Congress have claimed this prohibition also bans the CDC from conducting any research on the causes of gun violence. However, research on gun violence is not advocacy; it is critical public health research that gives all Americans information they need.

“People have been working for years to prevent violence, but it’s like we’re working with blinders on.”

Larry Cohen, executive director of Oakland’s Prevention Institute, called the backing of research “perhaps the most important part” of the President’s proposals.


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A Public Health Approach to Gun Violence

So now we’ve heard from the NRA which asserts that we need to put armed police in every school, then adding, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

It sounds good, but as Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center said today in a statement, that’s been tried already — and it didn’t work. “There were TWO armed law enforcement agents present at Columbine High School during the assault by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that left 15 dead and 23 wounded. They twice engaged and fired at Eric Harris in an effort to stop the shooting, but were unsuccessful because they were outgunned by the assault weapons wielded by the two teens.”

And if you’re thinking that having a gun protects you from guns, think again. After all, Rachel Davis, Managing Director of the Prevention Institute points out, in Newtown, Adam Lanza first killed his mother, a gun enthusiast. “The first victim of this shooting was a gun owner who was not able to stop this from happening,” Davis says. “The problem of guns is they raise the risk of lethality.”

We are a society that craves simple solutions, yet violence is a complex problem. That doesn’t mean nothing can be done. While Davis favors an assault weapons ban, she says that’s only one piece of a comprehensive approach. “Another piece,” she adds, “is addressing mental health needs — that includes access to high quality mental health services, reducing the trauma people are exposed to and then addressing the trauma.”

Mass shootings in Newtown understandably capture widespread media attention, but remember that children are murdered every day by firearms. In 2010, according to CDC numbers, 1,260 children up to age 18 were killed by someone who used a gun. That’s more than three children every day — or 21 children in the week since Newtown.

Davis argues for broad community-based prevention programs. Davis points to “GRYD” — the Gang Reduction Youth Development program which has been in place for several years in Los Angeles. GRYD is multi-pronged. “It’s not one single thing,” Davis says, “but a combination of strategies and efforts that are coordinated in the neighborhoods that are most affected by violence.”

For example, in LA’s successful Summer Night Lights program, parks are open after dark — prime gang-activity time — with free food and extra programs. Families flock there.

And it’s effective. Here are some statistics from the Summer Night Lights website:

(Image from Summer Night Lights website)

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