This weeks readings were about the Interrupters, a group of former gang members working to protect their Chicago communities from violence they once participated in. The Interrupters partner with an organization named CeaseFire, which believe violence is similar to the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be comparable. The founder of CeaseFire, Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist and physician who has worked to combat infectious diseases in Africa for ten years. He believes that with diseases such as AIDS and violence, it is imperative to treat the most infected, thus stopping the infection at its source.
Applying this to the Interrupters, they intervene in conflicts before the fights turn aggressive in order to reduce violence overall. The “Violence Interrupters” as they are known, have credibility on the streets because of their past. If young teens can see the former gang members diffusing seemingly minor spats, they will be less inclined to participate in the violence. This, in turn, will combat the mentality that violence is necessary for vengeance.
One thing I found really interesting was in the article “I See Everything Through This Tragedy” by Alex Kotlowitz. Children that are exposed to the street violence that Interrupters are working to combat, experience the same kind of post-traumatic stress disorder found in war soldiers. The only difference is that the children receive no resolution, they are constantly surround by the stimulation, whereas there is some hope of escape for soldiers. But when psychologists ask children exposed to these acts of violence to draw something, they draw an idyllic scene like a white picket fence or people holding hands. I wonder if it is because they have trained themselves to be numb to the pain surround them or are drawing a life they imagine for themselves? What can we do to help these children? And Slutkin, the founder of CeaseFire, wants to change the thoughts about violence from a moral issue to a public health one. So how can we shift public opinion about violence from good person vs. bad person to healthy vs. unhealthy?