Using Social Media to Build Out Support Systems
Violence prevention programs focus on curtailing forms of violence in society, such as child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. These programs often emphasize personal responsibility, information about what constitutes violence (it is often the case that offenders do not even realize they are being abusive), why long-term solutions are better than quick-fixes, and how to engage in respectful rather than abusive communication (Alternative Paths, 2020). This paper will discuss this topic, explain it from the theoretical perspective of strain theory, describe the present literature, and make recommendations based on the problems with violence prevention programs from a strain theory perspective and what can be done to solve those issues.
Violence Prevention Programs
Violence prevention programs are programs designed to address the needs of the community afflicted with violence issues, such as child abuse, sexual assault or domestic violence. For the programs here studied, the programs provide prevention education services that target the prevention of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. The program employs one director and three prevention educators. They also use volunteers and interns. The program represents 10% of the budget expenses. The program is funded through State and Federal grants and some community-based fundraising. The program is operating at a surplus.
Financially, the programs can be seen as operating efficiently. But what about in terms of impact in the community? To understand the actual impact of the programs, one has to examine them from suitable theoretical perspective. This is where strain theory can be applied.
Strain theory is used in the field of sociology and criminology to explain why conflict occurs. Merton’s strain theory posits that people are pressured to commit crime by society: they may be unaccepted by others, or they may face severe economic or financial pressures; they may face pressures from family, or from school or from church. They commit crime when the pressure becomes too great and they lash out or explode in a fit of deviance (Siegel, 2018).
Strain theory is effective in understanding why violence occurs; however, it has its limitations. For example, although strain does help to explain why some crimes are committed by some people, or why acts of violence are perpetuated, the theory itself cannot explain all acts of violence. Like every theory on crime it cannot be applied in general or across the board in all cases. Each incidence of violence is its own unique phenomenon and must be considered on its own terms. There are going to be unique factors at play in every case, and some may be readily explained by strain theory, and some will not be. Other theories, such as social bond theory or life course theory, are just as applicable in understanding why violence occurs in given situations. To understand why violent acts are committed, it requires a great deal more than just one simple theory. Often it requires the application of numerous theoretical perspectives so that a full and holistic approach to crime can be had (Siegel, 2018).
Labeling theory, trait theory and rational choice theory can all be good theoretical perspectives to apply. Rational choice theory, for instance plays a part in the thinking of criminals is certainly one perspective to consider. People who commit acts of violence are not prohibited from thinking that the benefits of crime outweigh the risks. People are cable of reason, even if they reason wrongly in some cases—like when they decide to commit an act of violence. Rational choice theory is more of an objective or impartial approach to understanding violence, whereas strain theory is a sympathetic and serves as a somewhat subjective approach to explaining why people act violently towards others, whether they are strangers or in their own family. With strain theory, one is obliged to find ways that the individual offender is almost the victim of external forces—so there is a lot of switching views about and reversing the logical order of how one thinks about violence and perpetrators of violence: the person acting violently is the offender, not the victim; but in strain theory one almost must come to see that the offender is a victim of society, which is cold and unfriendly.
Thus, what makes strain theory helpful is that it provides some insight by highlighting some of the factors that can lead to violence, which in the case of strain theory would be the environmental pressures that can increase and push someone to lash out. At the same time, it is likely the case that there is more going on with the person; there may be addiction involved, or a lack of social support, or no connection to one’s community. It is important to consider how interlocking and integrated numerous theories can be when one pulls back a little and sees how they are genuinely supportive of one another in terms of allowing a holistic view to appear.
One of the older studies on violence prevention programs argues that they do not work for four main reasons: “1) failure to target the violent students, 2) lack of follow-up necessary to maintain program quality, 3) use of street tactics in the schools, and 4) underestimation of the power of non-school social forces” (Johnson & Johnson, 1995, p. 63). Since the 1990s, however, more focus has been given to violence prevention programs and it became apparent that “developers of violence prevention programs need to pay particular attention to the type of violence being addressed, the target population,…
…This type of activity should be specialized or standardized ahead of time so that investigators know what to look for, and it should not be done without the participant’s consent. But once consent is given, the help should come in the form of one who knows what risks to look for and what aid can be provided, whether in terms of assisting the family to get on welfare services, or recommending counseling for further mental health help if the participants are showing signs of substance abuse or other negative risks.
To assist with the development of these programs, administrators can turn to communities for further funding by using social media campaigns to drum up support for the initiatives. These same campaigns can also be used to attract interest from volunteers and get people involved in the programs who might not otherwise have heard about them or have had any interest. The key to building out support systems for participants, for instance, is getting people involved in the lives of others in a positive and giving way. There are many people in communities who simply need a helping hand or a social bond, and that can make all the difference between a person losing self-control under the strain of too much pressure and the person maintaining self-control and refraining from violence or neglect.
Getting people connected and involved with one another is one of the great benefits of social media and volunteers can certainly help in this regard. The recommendation here is that program administrators look for ways to get community members involved in social media through the program so that they can reach out and touch base with participants who give their consent to be contacted via social media. This can allow participants and community members to meet virtually and to communicate and foster real connections.
Because of limitations in society that currently exist due to COVID-19 and the problems that have arisen because of this factor, it is unknown when a normal society in which free and open interaction is possible returns. Till that time, more families and individuals are at risk of deteriorating mental health because human society depends upon human interaction for strength. If that interaction is taken away, it is reasonable to expect that violence, neglect, assault and abuse will skyrocket. In fact, news reports are already showing this to be the case.
Thus, it is more important now than ever before to incorporate social media into the program for long-term results. Get participants signed up and ready to receive messages from volunteers in the community who can reach out, touch base and get involved as part of the person’s social support system. For long-term benefits, long-term actions and investments are needed. These do not have to be financial investments…
Altafim, E. R. P., & Linhares, M. B. M. (2016). Universal violence and childmaltreatment prevention programs for parents: A systematic review. Psychosocial Intervention, 25(1), 27-38.
Alternative Paths. (2020). Violence prevention. Retrieved from https://www.alternativepaths.org/services/diversion-programs/violence-prevention-program
Farrell, A. D., Meyer, A. L., Kung, E. M., & Sullivan, T. N. (2001). Development and evaluation of school-based violence prevention programs. Journal of clinical child psychology, 30(2), 207-220.
Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1995). Why violence prevention programs don't work--and what does. Educational Leadership, 52(5), 63-68.
Lee, C., & Wong, J. S. (2020). Examining the effects of teen dating violence prevention programs: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1-40.
Siegel, L. (2018). Criminology, 7th Ed. Cengage Learning.
Stagg, S. J., & Sheridan, D. (2010). Effectiveness of bullying and violence prevention programs: A systematic review. Aaohn Journal, 58(10), 419-424.
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