Launch Post: Called the Interrupters For a Reason

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?

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One Response to Launch Post: Called the Interrupters For a Reason

  1. funfetticakemix says:

    The whole concept of the Interrupters is really interesting to me, and I think it could be an extremely effective method to combat the gang violence going on the cities and surrounding areas. The comparison between the violence and a disease like AIDS made me really think about that and was saddened by the fact that I agreed and saw where he was coming from. The author was comparing them in the sense that they are treated the same way, but thinking about it, they also are widely destructive issues that can and should be solved. I would love to see what kind of impact the Interrupters have had so far, or look at statistics of how crime rates have changed since they started.

    I know of another organization that works with violence and poverty in Chicago, around Rogers Park, http://www.familyempower.org/our-mission, and it is really encouraging to see that there are groups in place that are striving towards making a difference. In the world that most of us grew up in, we were taught that violence is not the answer, but when you are living in conditions of poverty and danger, you are not taught those same values. These groups are striving towards making the “violence is not the answer” concept a reality for kids who grow up learning otherwise by example.

    I also thought that the PTSD fact was interesting and sad. There is no reason why a child should get such a serious mental illness and live in such trauma constantly simply because of where they live- it’s just not fair. I think the concept of the white picket fence drawings is a projection of the life they want, and read about in books. While this is not the reality for the majority, it is a safe hopeful dream that is something that the kids probably yearn for.

    Hopefully with all these different groups out working towards fixing the problem of violence at it’s roots, and by us education ourselves and others, we can help make a change for those living in violence and fear.

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