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The Violent Person

Professional Risk Management Strategies for Safety and Care

The Violent Person
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In recent years, we have seen an unacceptable increase in human-inflicted violence–people going berserk, seemingly out of nowhere and (only on the surface) for no reason. The hideous images are seared into our memory. Tragically, health-care workers on the front lines are not immune. In their daily work, they have been victims of homicides, hostage-takings, robberies, physical and sexual assaults, and psychological trauma of all kinds. The Violent Person is written for these individuals as well as the general reader in jargon-free language by one of the foremost experts in the world on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here is a book for anyone with a concern for, and an interest in, the mechanisms of human violence, stress at the breaking point, and the workings of the human brain. This book is written to save lives.
Steiner; January 2009
209 pages; ISBN 9781590561485
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Excerpt
Understanding Human Violence Night and silence! Who is here?—William Shakespeare The door to the jail cell slammed shut. He was charged with vagrancy, disorderly conduct, and two charges of assault and battery on a police officer. So be it, he thought to himself. Life was not fair, the world was a jungle, and, as his voices had correctly predicted, no one could be trusted—not even the police.Richard had grown up in a housing project on the other side of town. Both of his parents drank heavily and physically abused each other and himself. He tried to separate them during their fights but he was small in stature and easily flung out of the way into nearby walls. He learned early on that the world was malevolent and that he should keep his head down and his guard up.The voices had begun four year ago, when he was sixteen. These voices were his regular companions and their directives to harm himself or others were harsh and uncompromising. They particularly cajoled him to attack others first before those others came after him. He was frightened by the voices and had begun to use alcohol to calm his nerves.Today's dark journey had played itself out at high noon. This morning his voices had been especially intense. He had used some alcohol to self-medicate but with no measurable relief. He had gone to the park in search of solitude. However, his ill-kempt appearance and his constant pacing frightened nearby children and the police were called. The police surrounded him just as the voices had predicted that they would. This was the jungle made real.The police told him to stand still. He was unable to stop from pacing. The police asked his name. He remained mute. One of the officers remembered the police academy instructor saying that, when communication fails, violence follows, but what do you do when the suspect will not speak? In the end, four officers rushed him. He lowered his head and fought as hard as he could. One officer sustained a broken wrist; a second, a scraped face.Thus, the police had placed him in a cell and slammed shut the door. He wondered if they understood that in the jail cell of his schizophrenic illness the terror and loneliness were worse than anything the state had to impose.When communication fails, violence follows.Even though there is a good deal of violence in the world, when it erupts close to home in one's neighborhood by neighbors that everyone considered to be normal, people become frightened and confused. Violence teaches each of us how tenuous our links are to Mother Earth and murders, rapes, assaults, and the like remind us how vulnerable each of us truly is.This chapter focuses on the evil of human-perpetrated violence on others and examines the various theories to explain such behavior. The initial response of many nonvictims is to assume that the violent person was out of his or her mind, as is the case in our chapter vignette. Yet, only a small percentage of human violence can be attributed to mental illness. This is a cold reality with which it is difficult to come to terms. In most instances, the violent acts were committed by violent persons who were not mentally ill and who were aware of what they were doing. Some behaved impulsively (behavior without thought) and, even worse, some behaved with premeditated, calculated hatred. In the latter case, the assailants clearly knew what they were about.Why do people commit these heinous acts, including harming helpless children? What motivates or drives them to behave this way? The answer is complicated and not yet fully understood in medicine and science. However, behavioral science has developed and researched several theories that explain what may be at work in any given person's violent behavior. Often, more than one factor is at work in the same violent person.