As the Director of Prevention and Outreach at Hopeful Horizons, I want to challenge us to change our mindset about who is responsible for preventing acts of violence in our communities. If you ask me who is responsible for preventing violence in our communities, my answer is simple - you are.
My idea of true violence prevention starts from the moment you open your eyes in the morning, until the moment you go to sleep at night. Violence isn’t something that just springs up and happens suddenly. The daily conversations we have that perpetuates and glorifies violence plays a role. The violence in the entertainment industry that makes billions of dollars annually plays a role. Putting people in social “boxes” and buying into stereotypes plays a role. Prejudice against someone based on their skin color, gender identity, or cultural affiliation plays a role. Power and control, both on the relational level and the societal level plays a role. If we want to reduce violence in our community, the answer starts with individuals, institutions, agencies, and increasing everyone’s awareness of how social conditioning has created “norms” that lead to violence of all kinds.
There is a national conversation happening right now surrounding where to best invest dollars to help reduce violence. As someone who works in the violence prevention field, the answer seems clear - invest in communities by funding local individuals, institutions and agencies that help to reduce violence and look at the root causes of violence. This is what’s called primary prevention. There are many people across the United States who work to make their local community a better place. These are your nonprofits that support individuals and families to reduce the risk of violence and offer programs aimed at challenging societal norms associated with violence. They are also your local mental health agencies, school social workers, guidance counselors, teachers, community activists, local community groups, and the list goes on.
If we want to see change in our society, we must be preventative rather than reactionary. Imagine how our communities could look if there were mentors and programs in every school across the United States focused on supporting students and allowing them the space to express themselves and the support to help them through any difficulties they may be experiencing. Imagine what a large coalition of full-time community activists and leaders who have the monetary support to do their work and be able to pay their bills at the same time could accomplish. Investments into mental health services, parenting and family-based programs, nonprofits, and investments into all things in a community that truly help to create a safe, supportive, and equitable playing field for everyone are critical to creating cultural change.
It may be awhile before we see the level of investment in prevention needed to significantly reduce violence, but that shouldn’t deter us from doing what we can as individuals, institutions and agencies. We are all responsible for preventing violence in our communities. So, what are you doing?
At Hopeful Horizons we are doing our part to prevent violence through primary prevention programs, community education, counseling, advocacy and supportive services. Find out more about our activities.
About the Author
James Morrall serves as the Director of Prevention & Outreach for Hopeful Horizons. As Director of Prevention and Outreach, he and his team are able to work with numerous community stakeholders in many different ways to address the root causes of the diverse acts of violence we experience in our society, and how best to respond to victims of violence. This is done by leading prevention efforts within the local school systems, hospitals, faith-based organizations, and community centers just to name a few.
James is an alumnus of the Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Beaufort Class of 2016. He is a trained facilitator of Men Can Stop Rape’s Men of Strength Club, One Circle Foundation’s Girl’s Circle and Council for Boys and Young Men curricula, and the Futures Without Violence’s Coaching Boys into Men program.
James received his Master of Education from the University of Phoenix in 2010. He attended the University of South Carolina Aiken and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management in 2003. James has been on a personal mission to teach the world about his personal motto, “Everything Starts with Thought.” As a native of Beaufort SC, James’ goal is to do work for his community that focuses on youth to help guide our next generation of leaders.