"Being on either end of
a violent situation, whether you seem
to have come out with the upper hand or
whether you don't seem to, it doesn't
resolve anything. It escalates the problem.
Hatred leads to more hatred. Violence
leads to more violence."
-Adam Yauch of the Beastie
Violence. It's the act of
purposefully hurting someone. and it's
a major issue facing today's young adults.
One in 12 high schoolers is threatened
or injured with a weapon each year. If
you're between the ages of 12 and 24,
you face the highest risk of being the
victim of violence.
At the same time, statistics
show that by the early 1990's the incidence
of violence caused by young people reached
unparalleled levels in American society.
There is no single explanation
for the overall rise in youth violence.
Many different factors cause violent behavior.
The more these factors are present in
your life, the more likely you are to
commit an act of violence.
Factors that contribute
to violent behavior include:
need for attention or respect
feelings of low self-worth
early childhood abuse or neglect
witnessing violence at home, in
the community or in the media
easy access to weapons
Reasons for violence
What causes someone to punch,
kick, stab or fire a gun at someone else
or even him/herself?
There is never a simple
answer to that question. But people often
commit violence because of one or more
of the following:
Expression. Some people
use violence to release feelings
of anger or frustration. They think
there are no answers to their problems
and turn to violence to express
their out of control emotions.
Manipulation. Violence is
used as a way to control others
or get something they want.
Retaliation. Violence is
used to retaliate against those
who have hurt them or someone they
Violence is a learned behavior.
Like all learned behaviors, it can
be changed. This isn't easy, though.
Since there is no single cause of
violence, there is no one simple
solution. The best you can do is
learn to recognize the warning signs
of violence and to get help when
you see them in your friends or
Recognizing violence warning
signs in others
Often people who act violently
have trouble controlling their feelings.
They may have been hurt by others. Some
think that making people fear them through
violence or threats of violence will solve
their problems or earn them respect. This
isn't true. People who behave violently
lose respect. They find themselves isolated
or disliked, and they still feel angry
If you see these immediate
warning signs, violence is a serious possibility:
loss of temper on a daily basis
frequent physical fighting
significant vandalism or property
increase in use of drugs or alcohol
increase in risk-taking behavior
detailed plans to commit acts of
announcing threats or plans for
enjoying hurting animals
carrying a weapon
If you notice the following
signs over a period of time, the potential
for violence exists:
a history of violent or aggressive
serious drug or alcohol use
gang membership or strong desire
to be in a gang
access to or fascination with weapons,
threatening others regularly
trouble controlling feelings like
withdrawal from friends and usual
feeling rejected or alone
having been a victim of bullying
poor school performance
history of discipline problems
or frequent run-ins with authority
feeling constantly disrespected
failing to acknowledge the feelings
or rights of others
What you can do if someone
you know shows violence warning signs.
When you recognize violence
warning signs in someone else, there are
things you can do. Hoping that someone
else will deal with the situation is the
easy way out.
Above all, be safe. don't
spend time alone with people who show
If possible without putting
yourself in danger, remove the person
from the situation that's setting them
Tell someone you trust and
respect about your concerns and ask for
help. This could be a family member, guidance
counselor, teacher, school psychologist,
coach, clergy, school resource officer
If you are worried about
being a victim of violence, get someone
in authority to protect you. Do not resort
to violence or use a weapon to protect
The key to really preventing
violent behavior is asking an experienced
professional for help. The most important
thing to remember is don't go it alone.
Dealing with Anger
It's normal to feel angry
or frustrated when you've been let down
But anger and frustration
don't justify violent action. Anger is
a strong emotion that can be difficult
to keep in check, but the right response
is always stay cool.
Here are some ways to deal
with anger without resorting to violence:
Learn to talk about your feelings-if
you're afraid to talk or if you
can't find the right words to describe
what you're going through, find
a trusted friend or adult to help
Express yourself calmly - express
criticism, disappointment, anger
or displeasure without losing your
temper or fighting. Ask yourself
if your response is safe and reasonable.
Listen to others-listen carefully
and respond without getting upset
when someone gives you negative
feedback. Ask yourself if you can
really see the other person's point
Negotiate-work out your problems
with someone else by looking at
alternative solutions and compromises.
Anger is part of life, but
you can free yourself from the cycle of
violence by learning to talk about your
feelings. Be strong. Be safe. Be cool.
Are you at risk for violent
If you recognize any of
the warning signs for violent behavior
in yourself, get help. You don't have
to live with the guilt, sadness and frustration
that comes from hurting others.
Admitting you have a concern
about hurting others is the first step.
The second is to talk to a trusted adult
such as a school counselor or psychologist,
teacher, family member, friend or clergy.
They can get you in touch with a licensed
mental health professional who cares and
Controlling your own risk
for violent behavior.
Everyone feels anger in
his or her own way. Start managing it
by recognizing how anger feels to you.
When you are angry, you
You can reduce the rush
of adrenaline that's responsible for your
heart beating faster, your voice sounding
louder, and your fists clenching if you:
Take a few slow, deep breaths
and concentrate on your breathing.
Imagine yourself at the beach,
by a lake, or anywhere that makes
you feel calm and peaceful.
Try other thoughts or actions
that have helped you relax in the
Keep telling yourself:
Stop. Consider the consequences.
Think before you act.
Try to find positive or
neutral explanations for what that person
did that provoked you.
Don't argue in front of
Make your goal to defeat
the problem, not the other person.
Learn to recognize what
sets you off and how anger feels to you.
Learn to think through the
benefits of controlling your anger and
the consequences of losing control.
Most of all, stay cool and
think. Only you have the power to control
your own violent behavior. Don't let anger
Violence against self
Some people who have trouble
dealing with their feelings don't react
by lashing out at others. Instead, they
direct violence toward themselves. The
most final and devastating expression
of this kind of violence is suicide.
Like people who are violent
toward others, potential suicide victims
often behave in recognizable ways before
they try to end their lives. Suicide,
like other forms of violence, is preventable.
The two most important steps in prevention
are recognizing warning signs and getting
help. Warning signs of potential self-violence
previous suicide attempts
significant alcohol or drug use
threatening or communicating thoughts
of suicide, death, dying or the
sudden increase in moodiness, withdrawal,
major change in eating or sleeping
feelings of hopelessness, guilt
poor control over behavior
impulsive, aggressive behavior
drop in quality of school performance
lack of interest in usual activity
getting into trouble with authority
giving away important possessions
hinting at not being around in
the future or saying good-bye
These warning signs are
especially noteworthy in the context of:
a recent death or suicide of a
friend or family member
a recent break-up with a boyfriend
or girlfriend, or conflict with
news reports of other suicides
by young people in the same school
Often, suicidal thinking
comes from a wish to end deep psychological
pain. Death seems like the only way out.
But it isn't.
If a friend mentions suicide,
take it seriously. Listen carefully, then
seek help immediately. Never keep their
talk of suicide a secret, even if they
ask you to. Remember, you risk losing
that person. Forever.
When you recognize the warning
signs for suicidal behavior, do something
about it. Tell a trusted adult what you
have seen or heard. Get help from a licensed
mental health professional as soon as
possible. They can help work out the problems
that seem so unsolvable but, in fact,
Take a stand against
Information contained in
this publication should not be used as
a substitute for professional health and
mental health care or consultation. Individuals
who believe they may need or benefit from
care should consult a psychologist, school
psychologist, or other licensed health/mental
The American Psychological
Practice Directorate gratefully acknowledges
the following contributors to the publication:
Alan Berman, Ph.D., American
Association of Suicidology, Washington,
Eva Feindler, Ph.D., Long
Island University/C.W. Post Campus
Arnold Goldstein, Ph.D.,
Syracuse University. Center for Research
Nancy Guerra, Ed.D., University
of California at Riverside.
Rodney Hammond, Ph.D., Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention
Peter Sheras, Ph.D., University
of Virginia; Virginia Youth Violence Project
Fernando Soriano, Ph.D.,
SanDiego State University; San Diego Children's
The American Psychological
Association (APA) located in Washington
DC, is the largest scientific and professional
organization representing psychology in
the United States. Its membership includes
more than 159,000 researchers, educators,
clinicians, consultants, and students.
APA works to advance psychology as a science,
as a profession and as a means of promoting
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