Category Archives: Free Essays

Effects of Community Violence on Children and Youth Essay

Parallel with the increase in homicides and violent crime that began in the mid-1980s was a growing concern over youth’s exposure to community violence. Distinguished from family violence by its location— violence that occurs outside of the home—community violence is a relatively broad term that refers to witnessing of violence, but also frequently includes personal victimization and knowing of others who have been victimized. Community violence exposure (CVE) may affect children’s socioemotional development, beliefs about the world, school performance, and mental health. Children exposed to community violence are often at greater risk for a number of clinical and adjustment problems, most notably posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and aggression.


Estimates of the number of children exposed to community violence fluctuate with the amount of violence in the larger community, the sample on which the estimate is based, and the manner in which CVE is measured. Most studies in this area have been done with children and adolescents who, because of location or income, are at risk for CVE. Measures that combine relatively minor (e.g., seeing a dead body, a drug deal, a fight) and lethal and potentially lethal events (shootings, stabbings, killings), plus victimization and hearing about violence, find that 90% of these children have CVE. Focusing on more lethal and near lethal events, research finds that 25% to 70% of children in high-violence neighborhoods have seen a shooting. Children’s CVE often occurs in a cumulative manner from witnessing to victimization to perpetration. Children who perpetrate community violence frequently have been victimized by and witnessed violent events. Community violence is often characterized by its chronic nature: children frequently have experienced multiple acts and different types of violence.

Most research on CVE has been done with African American children who reside in high-violence areas. Studies with more representative populations find that White and Latino youth are also at risk for CVE, but that African American children are exposed to more violence and more serious violence.


Children traumatized by community violence may display a range of disorders and maladaptive behaviors. Most research on CVE among children and youth has focused on PTSD symptoms and externalizing behaviors (acting out, aggression, delinquency). First used to describe the reactions of soldiers during war, PTSD occurs in response to an extreme stressor and is characterized by specific behaviors in the categories of re-experiencing the event, avoidance of reminders and psychic numbing, and increased arousal that last for at least a month. In particular, traumatized children are likely to engage in repetitive play and reenactments of the event, display subdued behavior and affect with less interest in previously enjoyed activities, and have sleep disturbances. Children often have trauma specific fears and worry about a recurrence of the event. These children may be pessimistic about their future (not believe that they will live very long) and have difficulty forming close personal relationships. In addition to PTSD, these children are at risk for depression and substance abuse.

In addition to the above internalizing symptoms children affected by community violence are more likely to display externalizing behaviors, characterized by anger, aggression, acting out and delinquency, and substance use. This aggression may be a result of modeling, or beliefs about the efficacy and acceptability of force and violence in one’s relationships that comes from existence in a violent milieu. Some research has found that children exposed to chronic violence, which is characteristic of community violence, display more externalizing than internalizing symptoms or may display such symptoms in the absence of depression and anxiety-related reactions. As children often know the victims of community violence, they frequently experience grief, in addition to trauma symptoms, which further complicates their recovery. When the victim is a relative or close family friend, the entire family may be traumatized, seriously undermining its ability to support the child’s recovery and healing.

Specific behaviors displayed by children traumatized by CVE depend on their developmental level. For example, very young children may show regressive behaviors such as extreme anxiety when separated from the caregiver, bedwetting, and decreased verbalization. School-age children may report more fights and academic difficulties, while teenagers’ symptoms include more risk taking and self-destructive behavior. If not addressed, trauma symptoms can impact the child’s development, resulting in diminished life chances over the lifespan. Intrusive images, trouble concentrating, or fatigue from sleep disturbances can lead to difficulty with learning and school performance, which has long-term implications for achievement and success. Aggressive behaviors and difficulties getting along with others may negatively impact the traumatized child’s ability to form positive and supportive relationships, which, in turn, may be replaced by involvement with more deviant peers, a primary factor in subsequent engagement in antisocial activities.


Several individual and event-related characteristics affect the strength of the relationship between CVE and any potential consequences. While boys are more likely to experience community violence, girls seem to be more affected by their exposure. In comparison to boys, violence-exposed girls report more PTSD related symptoms. However, recent research has not found clear gender differences in externalizing behaviors, with violence-exposed girls at similar risk as boys for aggression and acting out.

Several characteristics of the incident may affect the impact of CVE. Children in the greatest physical danger and in closest physical proximity to the incident frequently have the most severe reactions. In addition, children are most distressed by incidents involving those with whom they have close personal relationships. Some research has shown that children are only affected by those incidents that involve known others.

Like adults, children who dissociate during the event may be most likely to develop PTSD, which has been related to the development of additional symptoms. For example, children with PTSD are most likely to also be depressed and to use substances. Such results suggest that PTSD functions as a pathway between traumatic exposure and additional negative outcomes, indicating the importance of addressing the trauma early on to avoid the occurrence of PTSD.

There is wide variation in the impact of CVE. While violence-exposed children are more likely to be distressed than their nonexposed counterparts, the majority of children experiencing CVE do not report severe symptoms. Many factors may account for this, including the operation of the moderators described above and other individual, familial, and community level variables. Children who are exposed to both community violence and family violence are more at risk for negative consequences. Also, a child’s personal competency, social support from friends and family, and warm parental relationships serve some protective functions, but only when violence exposure and threat are not extreme.


  1. Buka, S. L., Stichick, T. L., Birdthistle, S. M., ; Earls, F. J. (2001). Youth exposure to violence: Prevalence, risks and consequences. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71, 298–310.
  2. Jenkins, E. J., ; Bell, C. C. (1997). Exposure and response to community violence among African American children and adolescents. In J. Osofsky (Ed.), Children in a violent society (pp. 9–31). New York: Guilford Press.
  3. National Child Traumatic Stress Network and National Center for PTSD. (2006). Psychological first aid: Field operations guide (2nd ed.). Retrieved from and
  4. Ozer, E. J., Richards, M., ; Kliewer, W. (Eds.). (2004). Protective factors in the relationship between community violence exposure and adjustment in youth [Special section]. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33(3).

Normative Theory Essay

The term normative theory gained currency in American political science in the post–World War II (1939–1945) period as a consequence of the behavioral revolution and the rise of positivist-empiricist political science. Behaviorists sought to draw a distinction between scientifically oriented political inquiry and evaluative forms of political inquiry that they claimed focused on questions of what the political system ought to look like. Hence, they claimed to distinguish between those forms of political inquiry that only describe the world in a value-neutral fashion, that is, empirical theory, from those that offered normative implications or recommendations about political life, including recommendations of which types of political systems were best, what the nature of justice is, and so forth. The impulse to enforce this distinction in political inquiry derived from the assumption that science was value neutral and that one sign of the scientific maturity of a discipline is the extent to which it has purged itself of normative influences. Scientists do not approve or disapprove of the nature of the objects under investigation; they seek only to describe them and how they operate, function, or behave.

Normative Versus Empirical Theory

The dichotomy between empirical and normative theories was itself rooted in a philosophy of language borrowed from the philosophical movement called logical positivism. Logical positivists, drawing on the philosophies of David Hume and Immanuel Kant, held that statements could be of two types, meaningful and meaningless. Meaningful statements are also of two types, analytic and synthetic. Analytic statements are those that are true by definition (e.g., all bachelors are unmarried). Synthetic statements are those that make testable, empirical claims about the independent, objective world and may be either true or false. Statements that fit into neither of the above categories are deemed meaningless. These meaningful meaningless, analytic-synthetic dichotomies were the foundation of another dichotomy, that between facts and values. Factual statements were deemed to be synthetic and therefore meaningful. Value statements are those that merely reflect the speaker’s opinion or emotive preferences, but are otherwise meaningless. The assumption was that scientific inquiry must consist only of meaningful statements and exclude normative or value-laden statements (Ayer 1952). In the end, normative statements were deemed to be not rationally grounded, that is, they could be neither empirically verified nor demonstrated to be true through reason.

However, no sooner had this view of language become incorporated into the self-understanding of positivist-empiricism political science than it was shown to be unsustainable. Influenced by the later work of Wittgenstein, philosophers such as W.V. O. Quine (1953) and Wilfred Sellars (1956) challenged the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, the fact-value distinction, and what Sellars called “the myth of the given,” that is, the idea that the world we can know exists independently of our theories about it. In doing so, they undermined the very foundations of empiricism. Subsequently, Thomas Kuhn’s work challenged the view of science rooted in the positivist and empiricist account of epistemology and philosophy of science. Unfortunately, these developments were either largely ignored or, in the case of Kuhn, largely misunderstood by the discipline of political science. Hence, the logical positivist account of facts versus values and empirical versus normative theory remains central to positivist accounts of political science (e.g., see Johnson and Reynolds 2008, 27–59).

Needless to say, the dichotomy between empirical and normative theory did not go unchallenged. Despite significant differences among them, a number of theoretical perspectives emerged to emphasize that there are inherent normative dimensions to all political explanation that can be traced to four factors. First, much of the language of explanation of politics itself is formed from a normative—that is, ethical, moral, or political—point of view, and it actually describes from a normative, moral, or political point of view. In other words, the point behind such terms is not only to render an evaluation of social and political practices but also to render a richer description that takes into account the moral dimensions to some forms of political phenomena. Hence, attempts to purge such vocabularies of their normative denotations are bound to fail or seriously disfigure the meaning of political-normative terms. The result can be a misunderstanding of politics and often issues in tacit moral commitments that are ignored.

Second, the terms of political discourse are often internally complex, connoting or denoting a family of meanings that overlap. In such cases, the terms in question are not reducible to any one of the common or intersubjective meanings associated with them. The attempt to reduce the meaning of such concepts to one operationalized meaning can be not only misleading but often is accompanied by a tacit normative commitment. For example, behavioralists tended to define political power in terms of overt, observable conflicts and events within the public realm. Such a definition ignores cases where those in a position of political subordination are so intimidated that they do not even venture to challenge those in political power, a situation common in the race relations in the United States after Reconstruction and through to the civil rights movement. Not surprisingly, behavioralists tended to see American democracy in Panglossian terms (“the best of all possible worlds”) and often adopted a critical perspective on social and political dissent such as the civil rights movement. In addition, because of the internal complexity of the terms of political discourse and the normative implications of accepting one definition of a concept rather than another, many theorists argued that the language of political discourse was essentially contestable in ways that further undermine the dichotomy between empirical and normative political theory.

Third, the goal of political science is not simply the description of political phenomena but the explanation of them as well. The explanation of phenomena requires not only that one give an account of why some states of affairs pertain but also why others do not. Such an account is an interpretation of why some states of affairs or political arrangements are natural, rational, reasonable, or normal, while others are less sustainable. Because any such explanation distributes the range of political possibilities one way rather than another, explanation by its very nature distributes the normative burden in favor of some states of affairs while denying others. For example, empiricists tended to interpret American pluralism as the most reasonable possibility for representative democracy, more inclusive forms of democracy being deemed irrational or unstable (Taylor 1985).

Finally, insofar as political explanation necessarily deploys a vocabulary that distinguishes between rational and irrational behavior, it is necessarily normative. For to say that a practice, institution, or mode of behavior is rational is to make a prima facie case for saying that it is desirable, and to say that it is irrational is to suggest that it should be changed or ceased.

Philosophical Challenges To A Value-Free Inquiry

Among the first to challenge the dichotomy between value free and value-laden political science was Leo Strauss (1959). Drawing on the classical tradition and Plato in particular, Strauss argued that the explanation of political life requires a proper understanding of the nature of political knowledge. Acquiring such knowledge is the task of political philosophy, and it is by its very nature a normative enterprise. Specifically, political philosophy is “the attempt to replace opinion about the nature of political things by the knowledge of the nature of political things. Political things are by their nature subject to approval and disapproval, to choice and rejection, to praise and blame” (1959, 7–8). The political nature of things is not properly reducible to merely subjective evaluations. Rather, political knowledge of things, even if it is never perfectly attainable, can nonetheless be grounded in rational deliberation. From this perspective, the claim of positivist political science to have separated the description of political things from the evaluation of political things is both wrong and dangerous. It is wrong because such attempts must of necessity make choices about the nature of the political that in fact have evaluative elements to them. It is dangerous because in the end it denies that there is a natural, normative dimension to political society that is discoverable by reason, understood in the classical sense. This can lead to moral relativism that can be used by the most unethical forms of political life.

A second challenge to the dichotomy between descriptive and normative theory emerged in the work of Sheldon Wolin. Wolin (2004) argues that there is a distinctive tradition of political theory and philosophy that has among its primary tasks the definition of the political. Such an enterprise is not only normative but is also descriptive and explicative from a political point of view. Specifically, in advancing an account of the political and related concepts such as authority, power, freedom, consent, and so forth, the political theorist, and the study of politics generally, renders some political facts of more significance than others: “The concepts and categories that make up our political understanding help us to draw connections between political phenomena . . . they create an area of determinate political awareness and thus help us to separate the relevant from the irrelevant.” (2004, 7) Such an activity can never be politically or morally neutral. This leads Wolin to make a distinction between vita methodica, or methodism, and bios theoretica, or political theory (1969). The former is deflationary of theory and mistakenly presupposes that the choice of methods is value neutral. In point of fact, much of what passes for scientific accounts of politics is steeped in normative assumptions and implications that underwrite the political status quo. Political inquiry informed by the tradition of political theory, on the other hand, fully addresses the normative dimension of its explanations. It recognizes that “because facts are richer than theories, it is the task of the theoretical imagination to restate new possibilities” (1969, 1082).

Yet a third approach to political theory that challenged the distinction between description and normative theory emerged in the work of John Rawls. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls offers an account of the conclusions concerning political life that free and rational individuals would arrive at if they were placed behind a veil of ignorance, that is, placed in a situation in which they evaluated the alternatives for political life from a disinterested situation. Hence, the conclusions he draws about justice are not simply subjective preferences but rather are rationally grounded decisions that anyone in a similar situation would come to. Moreover, primacy of justice is not a question of mere opinion or subjective preference. Rather, it is the point behind social institutions in much the same way that the pursuit of truth is the point behind the pursuit of knowledge. “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions, no matter how efficient and well-arranged, must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust” (1971, 3). In effect, Rawls argued that in a well-ordered society, there would be widespread agreement on moral beliefs and in particular on the primacy of justice over other political values, such as notions of the good. In subsequent work (1993) Rawls revised the theory of justice, arguing that liberal political societies committed to some form of representative democracy and characterized by reasonable pluralism would be united by a political conception of justice rather than a moral one. In this later work, Rawls attempts to answer the question, “How is it possible that deeply opposed though reasonable comprehensive doctrines may live together and all affirm a political conception of a constitutional regime?” (1993). If Rawls’s analysis is correct, the conclusion is not simply a matter of subjective choice or personal preference, it is a matter of the conclusions that rational individuals would come to in a pluralistic, liberal society.

Postmetaphysical Political Accounts

In more recent years, a number of approaches to the explanation of political life have embraced the term postmetaphysical to describe their account of political explanation and evaluation.

Postmetaphysical refers to the claim that although all theories make ontological assumptions about the nature of human existence and political life, there is no one theoretical perspective that can deliver on the claim to represent what is essential or exclusively fundamental about social and political life. This means that no single perspective can offer the privileged or exclusive foundations of social and political inquiry. Thus, no single account can claim objectivity in the strong sense; each account is a prescription of how political life ought to be studied, what is most significant in the study of political life, and how that account of the political influences political practice. Among the most important perspectives that fall into this category are Habermasian discourse ethics, interpretive hermeneutic political theory articulated by thinkers such as Charles Taylor, and genealogical perspectives exemplified by the work of William Connolly.

In his theory of communicative action and discourse ethics, Jurgen Habermas argues that although there is no single objective account of politics, any attempt at communication, that is, any speech act, necessarily presupposes three normative validity claims. In engaging in the act of communication, the speaker draws upon claims to sincerity or truthfulness, truth, and appropriateness. When normative prescriptions that meet these criteria are agreed upon by social agents, the decisions or behaviors that result can be deemed to be rational in a strong, noninstrumental sense of the term. Moreover, Habermas argues that these validity claims are universal, that is, they are pragmatically implicit in every act of communication. If Habermas is correct that there are universally valid criteria for judging the rationality of normative claims and actions, claims about statements meeting these criteria can be deemed to be true, though subject to revision.

Interpretive or hermeneutic approaches take a somewhat different approach to normative theory. Thinkers such as Charles Taylor argue that human beings are by nature self-interpreting beings. Much of the language of self-interpretation is conducted of necessity in moral and ethical terms. In addition, that self-interpretation often takes the form of what Taylor describes as strong evaluation. Strong evaluation is that which poses the choice between two alternatives in morally contradictory or competitive terms. This element of human being, that is, moral self-interpretation, is no less true of the practice of social science than it is of everyday political life. Insofar as social and political theory are attempts to make sense of our political world, to clarify the inchoate or imperfectly understood, they will sustain some established activities and undermine others. Hence, to offer an interpretation of social and political action is to endorse one set of political alternatives and to deny others.

The last perspective, sometimes unfortunately labeled postmodernism, is best described as genealogical social theory. Indebted to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and William James, among others, thinkers such as William Connolly adopt genealogical approaches that embrace the idea of the “death of God” in the sense that no single theory can claim to offer an account of political life that is exclusive and exhaustive without remainder. All theories involve gaps and blind spots and illuminate some aspects of our lives while denying others. Moreover, since social and political life is always in the process of development, even though subtle and slow at times, vocabularies that have explanatory purchase at one point do not have explanatory purchase at another. The result is that each theoretical perspective is sustained not only by evidence and argument but by an act of existential faith that one’s account is correct. One ethical implication is that the proponent of any particular theory must of necessity look to engage other perspectives and cultivate an ethos of agonistic respect toward new perspectives and new ideas from alternative accounts of social and political life. Moreover, all must be attuned to the ways in which their own theories sustain some forms of political practice, morality, and behavior and undermine others.

Normative Accounts Of Political Phenomena

If the proponents of explanatory-normative theory are correct, then several implications would seem to follow. First, a good deal of what passes for science in political science masks an implicit normative and in some cases explicit normative account of political phenomena. Second, claims to have achieved a science of politics that is devoid of value positions must be taken with a dose of skepticism. Such positions are grounded in epistemologies and philosophies of language that were refuted long ago. Finally, in light of the normative implications of all theoretical perspectives, the cultivation of greater theoretical pluralism and not just methodological pluralism is warranted. In particular, it is incumbent upon political scientists to seek out critical, agonistic, respectful engagement with other theoretical perspectives. Such an approach enhances the possibility of becoming attuned to one’s own normative commitments and of challenging contestable boundaries of the ethical and political, and the prospect emerges of forms of knowledge that enhance a deeper and broader understanding of politics.


  1. Ayer, A. J. Language, Truth, and Logic. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Press, 1952.
  2. Connolly, William E. The Terms of Political Discourse. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.
  3. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005.
  4. Habermas, Jurgen. Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996.
  5. Truth and Justification. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005.
  6. Johnson, Janet Buttolph, and H.T. Reynolds. Political Science Research Methods. 6th ed.Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2008.
  7. Quine,W.V. O. “Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” In From the Logical Point of View, by W.V. O. Quine, 20–46. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953.
  8. Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971.
  9. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
  10. Sellars,Wilfred.”Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind.” In Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 1., edited by Herbert Feigl and Michael Scriven, 253–308. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1956.
  11. Strauss, Leo. What is Political Philosophy? and Other Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959.
  12. Taylor, Charles. Philosophical Papers, vol. 2: Philosophy and the Human Sciences. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
  13. Wolin, Sheldon. Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought. Expanded ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.
  14. “Political Theory as a Vocation.” American Political Science Review 63, no. 4 (December 1969): 1062–1082.

Vigilantism Essay

Vigilantes are those who take enforcement of the law or moral code into their own hands. The term developed in ancient Rome, and today it applies to citizens carrying out frontier justice when they perceive established authorities as weak, corrupt, and/or insufficient. The word vigilante originated in Spain. Where no established law exists, private citizens may find it necessary to impose the values of their group. Lawyers call vigilantism “extra-judicial self-help,” and many often equate it with vengeance. However, vigilantism becomes vilified when it leads to such criminal behavior as lynching.

Historical Background

Although a worldwide activity, vigilantism found fertile ground in the United States, beginning in colonial times and extending into the early federal period. By the late 1700s into the 1800s, groups that took matters into their own hands formed committees to identify and punish immigrants suspected of crimes. After fading for a while, its renaissance as an urban phenomenon began in California in the mid-1850s when members of the community started a vigilante movement for law and order. Such vigilantism led to situations where large crowds took prisoners from authorities and beat them severely before lynching them. Postcards recording lynchings showed proud participants, as well as residents (including children) dressed up to watch. The event became a cause for celebration.

Interestingly, local officials seldom revealed the identities of mob leaders because they viewed lynching as acceptable, necessary, and understandable. The violence reached an all-time high in the period from 1890 to 1902. Though the trend slowed after 1909, it continued into the 1930s. Vigilantism later resurfaced with the Guardian Angels (a New York City volunteer group founded in 1979 to combat subway crime), anti-abortionists, border security groups, and bounty hunters. One notable controversial case of vigilantism occurred in 1984, when Bernard Goetz—dubbed the subway vigilante—shot four young black men on a subway in anticipation of their intending to rob him. In the 1980s, vigilantism took the form of death squads in Central America, and in the 1990s, cyber hackers went after sexual predators, terrorists, and spammers on the Internet.


Other criminal acts often accompany crimes of vigilantism. Depending on the severity of these other acts, the sentence for vigilante behavior will vary. Most offenders get probation for their actions, after a negotiated plea bargain.

Although characteristics vary, the typical vigilante is a middle-class male. Unlike self-defense (which is spontaneous), vigilantism is usually premeditated. It most often occurs as a group act by concerned citizens who share a common goal. Participation is voluntary, and offenders are most likely to be private citizens. Vigilantes are not just members of the community; many are retired police and military personnel. Some of these groups are quite organized and violent. Others only threaten to use force. There are two main types of vigilantes. Lone wolves are disorganized and easily caught, sometimes deliberately so, such as “suicide by cop.” Conversely, instigators are well organized and tend to involve others (a close associate or small group) in their plans. A distinction also exists between crime control vigilantes (e.g., bounty hunters) and social control vigilantes (e.g., community members or concerned residents).

Vigilantism is a subtype of political violence. Unlike domestic terrorism, vigilantism seeks to help the social order. For example, a widely tolerated vigilante activity in Islamic societies is the practice of “honor killing,” when female members of the household shame the family name. Similarly, many Western nations and some U.S. states had laws justifying the homicide of a spouse if caught in the act of adultery in the conjugal home.

Recent Examples

Since 2000, hate crimes and murders have occurred against Mexican immigrants along and near the southern U.S. border. Members of the Minutemen vigilantes, the Ku Klux Klan, Ranch Rescue, and certain Mexican-hating elements of the Jewish Defense League have been accused of committing these unsolved murders. Violent activities by these similar groups are unacceptable but continue to occur. The Minutemen vigilantes, in particular, like to portray themselves as neighborhood watch groups assisting Border Patrol agents.

Examples of vigilante films include Dirty Harry of1971, Death Wish of 1974, Batman of 1989, Spiderman of 2002, and their sequels. A more recent movie is V for Vendetta of 2006. Literature, comic books, and television series (e.g., “Dog: The Bounty Hunter”) have also portrayed vigilantes, who see themselves as friends of society. Indeed, some Web sites depict vigilantes as necessary and positive forces in the community.

Some laws support vigilante justice. For example, Good Samaritan laws provide protection to those who intervene when someone needs emergency assistance. The “right to resist arrest” law grants citizens freedom from restraint or control, and the self-defense doctrine allows citizens to shoot another person to protect their lives, property, or the lives of their loved ones. In fact, allowing law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed handgun is another example of a law that supports vigilantism. Some research demonstrates that carrying a concealed weapon deters criminals.

Road rage is another form of vigilantism, as many drivers try to make traffic violators pay when they break the rules. A newer example of vigilantism includes those who attempt to get back at Internet deviants. They are called “digital vigilantes.” Further, some vigilantes fight criminals via the Internet (called “cyber vigilantes”).

The aforementioned Guardian Angels, formed as an unauthorized anti-crime patrol, epitomized vigilantism. Interestingly, as they became more visible (wearing red berets) and more respected, the police began to resent them. Currently, a vigilante group patrols a Colorado highway for litterers, and in one neighborhood, a vigilante committee forcibly evicted a neighbor. A more recent example of vigilantism involves members of the community attacking former sex offenders. Because they are able to use the Internet to track down offenders, who are required to register their addresses, these vigilantes can locate and attack their victims. Vigilantism remains a serious problem that needs to be dealt with strongly, but it is important to look at the causes. Vigilantes usually act after a period of simmering frustration over lack of protection. Minutemen, who claim to be protecting our borders, and sex offender attackers, who claim to be protecting our community, might have good intentions, but they are still acting without legal authority. Vigilantes want punishment, or just deserts, swiftly. If they continue to believe that current law enforcement efforts are ineffective, their behavior will likely continue, however unacceptable it may be.

Today, more action is being taken against certain types of vigilantes, especially anti-immigration offenders. Public pressure is building on governments to deter this behavior, especially with more public awareness of vigilantism. In addition, a focus on the needs of those victimized by vigilantes is developing. Recommendations have been made to develop case intake and assessment forms that can record all necessary information to evaluate what services victims of vigilantism require. Recommendations have also been made for an access-secure Internet database to capture complete information about vigilantism. Further, suggestions have been made for the development of training manuals on procedure for the prosecution of vigilantes.


  1. Abrahams, Ray. 1999. Vigilant Citizens: Vigilantism and the State. Cambridge, England: Polity Press.
  2. Culberson, William C. 1990. Vigilantism: Political History of Private Power in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
  3. Fletcher, George P. 1990. A Crime of Self-Defense: Bernhard Goetz and the Law on Trial. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  4. French, Peter A. 2001. The Virtues of Vengeance. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
  5. Johnston, Les. 1996. “What Is Vigilantism?” British Journal of Criminology 36:220-36.
  6. Lott, John R., Jr. 1998. “The Concealed-Handgun Debate.” Journal of Legal Studies 27:221-43.

Economic Independence Of Battered Women Essay

Economic independence refers to one means by which women may escape and survive abusive relationships. It is related to the ways in which money or financial assets may be used as a tool of coercive control by batterers against women. The financial status of women in terms of employment and wages, savings and investments, government subsidies, and the like is often critical to their decisions regarding abusers and abusive relationships. Women with greater financial independence are in a better position to survive, find safety, and provide for themselves and their children during and after abusive relationships. Many women feel coerced into staying in abusive relationships because they are, or have been made to be, financially dependent upon their partners. The following sections discuss the various tenets of economic (in)dependence: the role of financial abuse in battering and women’s attempts to leave abusive relationships; connections among battering, poverty, homelessness, and welfare reform; and the effects of battering on women’s employment and employability.

Economic Abuse As A Dynamic Of Battering

Woman battering revolves around power and coercive control that batterers exert over their victims in various ways. One of the more common ways in which power and control is accomplished involves isolating a woman from any social outlets that could legitimize and assist her with her victimization. Preventing her from attending family gatherings, meeting with friends, attending church, and/or finding or going to work, through threats, manipulation, harassment, physical force, and/or injury, are common tactics. Moreover, in many abusive relationships, the batterer controls the flow of household money and may be the sole wage earner, placing the woman at his mercy for financial support. This is particularly effective when women are already disadvantaged financially due to disability, age, immigration status, drug/alcohol addiction, or criminal record, and reliant on public subsidies (e.g., welfare, social security disability and/or income). Even in instances where women are working outside of the home, batterers may order them to turn over their paychecks or harass them at work so much that they constantly lose or quit their jobs. Likewise, violence to and destruction of household items, particularly those belonging to the victim, and marital or couple assets are common forms of abuse. Property damage is not only an expression of an abuser’s control but also extremely hurtful to a woman’s economic standing.

Economic abuse often continues after a woman terminates an abusive relationship as well, when the batterer uses his economic standing to continue harassing and stalking the woman as a form of separation assault. This is particularly effective in the legal system, which can be extremely time consuming and expensive, when restraining order, divorce, and child visitation, custody, and/or support proceedings go on unnecessarily for months or even years because of investigations, continuances, extensions, unnecessary pleadings, and reneging of agreements. Because of their greater economic positioning in comparison to battered women, who are less likely to afford high quality, ongoing legal representation, abusers usually stand a better chance of retaining attorneys who are willing to work on such court proceedings for a long time.

While many battered women do eventually leave their abusers, such decisions are often difficult and risky. Not only may they face their batterers’ retaliation, but they are also likely to face the grave concern about how to survive financially. Many are forced to return to their abusers because of economic hardship upon separation. This is most likely the case when a woman has dependent children.

Poverty, Homelessness, And Welfare

Fleeing abusive relationships often translates into poverty and a high probability of homelessness for battered women. Many are forced to rely on welfare subsidies as their only or primary source of income, at least temporarily. In this way, there is a very strong connection among poverty, homelessness, welfare receipt, and battering. Indeed, the majority of poor and homeless women have suffered from battering; financial struggles upon leaving their abusers are paramount in their situations.

However, welfare subsidies have been substantially eroded since the mid-1990s with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Provisions in the law have encouraged recipients to marry, mandated the establishment of paternity in cases where benefits are being used to support children, and placed time limits on receipt of benefits. Such provisions work in opposition to battered women’s needs. While PRWORA provides an exemption from the time limits for domestic violence victims, it seems that these exemptions are not regularly made available to women. It appears that many women do not know that they may request them. Moreover, states vary in their policies regarding implementation of the exemptions, such that welfare case workers may not be required or encouraged to offer them to their clients. So while welfare is a primary option for women without alternative means of economic support, it is not always a very desirable one. Comparisons have been made between the regulation, monitoring, and coercive control of batterers and that of the welfare state. In this way, one form of economic dependency is exchanged for another.


Seeking and maintaining employment can be extremely important for battered women on several fronts. Earning wages, even if they are taken by an abusive partner, may open doors for women socially, in ways that might allow them access to helpful resources they would not otherwise have. Being employed also allows for the possibility of saving money that may be used upon leaving an abusive situation. For those who are able to maintain control of their wages, the process of leaving is often made more expedient and effective because of the economic independence provided by employment. Even in low-wage jobs, women may emotionally benefit from knowing they are employable, and thus feel more confident about their chances of financial survival upon termination of an abusive relationship. Women in higher-wage jobs may not only have the financial resources to move a far distance from their abusers; they may also, if they are highly educated and marketable, have a better chance of being able to reestablish their careers in another location. Moreover, such women may also be able to afford legal representation comparable to those of their ex-partners and thus increase their standing in postseparation court proceedings.

Regardless of the importance of employment, many battered women are not able to look for or maintain work because of the physical injuries, long-term debilitations, or psychological effects of abuse, including depression and lowered self-esteem. This in turn contributes to women’s social isolation, which reinforces their partners’ power and control. Retaining employment often comes at the cost of work-related harassment and stalking by the abuser, including but not limited to physical assaults immediately prior to a work shift or during work breaks, constant phone calls or email messages throughout the workday, and destruction of work-related documents. In the most dire of circumstances, women, and sometimes their coworkers, may be stalked and attacked at the workplace.

Only recently has the connection been made between woman battering and workplace violence. Employers have been slow at recognizing the specific needs of battered women in the workplace, often seeing battered women as unreliable workers and as liabilities to the organization rather than as in need of help. These women are hard pressed to meet the demands of their jobs as well as negotiate abusive relationships and the consequences thereof—medical attention, counseling, legal proceedings, and the demands of single parenthood. Employers need to weigh the women’s frequent tardiness, absenteeism, sick leave, personal leave, and extended vacation requests against the importance of their maintaining employment. Consequently, battered women may lose their jobs, be demoted, or resign due to injuries or concerns about safety. Their abusers, even when the relationship has ended, are likely to be opposed to, jealous of, and threatened by their employment. Despite the struggles involved with working, battered women who work fare better in establishing some level of financial independence, which is likely to lessen the effectiveness of their abusers’ control tactics as well as increase their chances of being able to escape violence and provide for themselves over the long term.


  1. Browne, A., Salomon, A., & Bassuk, S. S. (1999). The impact of recent partner violence on poor women’s capacity to maintain work. Violence Against Women, 5, 393–426.
  2. Brush, L. D. (2000). Battering, traumatic stress, and welfare-to-work transition. Violence Against Women, 6, 1039–1065.
  3. Goodman, L., Dutton, M. A., Vankos, N., ; Weinfurt, K. (2005). Women’s resources and use of strategies as risk and protective factors for reabuse over time. Violence Against Women, 11(3), 311–336.
  4. Lloyd, S. (1997). The effects of domestic violence on women’s employment. Law and Policy, 19, 139–167.
  5. Moe, A. M., ; Bell, M. P. (2004). Abject economics: The effects of battering on women’s work and employability. Violence Against Women, 10(1), 29–55.
  6. Raphael, J. (1996). Prisoners of abuse: Domestic violence and welfare receipt. Chicago: Taylor Institute.
  7. Swanberg, J. E., Logan, T. K., & Macke, C. (2005). Intimate partner violence, employment, and the workplace: Consequences and future directions. Trauma, Violence and Abuse, 6(4), 286–312.
  8. Zorza, J. (1991). Woman battering: A major cause of homelessness. Clearinghouse Review, 25, 421.

Victim-Offender Mediation Essay

Victim-offender mediation is a process that provides interested victims of primarily property crimes and minor assaults the opportunity to meet the juvenile or adult offenders, in a safe and structured setting, with the goal of holding the offenders directly accountable for their behavior while providing assistance and compensation to the victim. With the assistance of a trained mediator, the victims are able to let the offenders know how the crime affected them, receive answers to questions they may have, and be directly involved in developing a restitution plan for the offenders to be accountable for the losses they incurred. The offenders are able to take direct responsibility for their behavior, learn of the full impact of what they did, and develop a plan for making amends to the person(s) they violated.

Although certain procedural differences and differences in terminology exist in implementing victim-offender mediation in juvenile versus adult courts, the overall approach and procedure is quite similar in both settings. In some programs, cases are referred to victim-offender mediation as a diversion from prosecution, assuming the agreement is successfully completed. In other programs, cases are referred after the court accepts a formal admission of guilt, with the mediation as a condition of probation (if the victim is interested). Some programs receive case referrals at both the diversion and the post-adjudication levels. Officials involved in the juvenile justice system refer most cases, although some programs also receive referrals from the adult criminal justice system. Judges, probation officers, victim advocates, prosecutors, defense attorneys, or police can make referrals to victim-offender mediation programs.

Victim-offender mediation programs were initially referred to as “victim-offender reconciliation programs (VORPs)” in the mid-1970s and 1980s. Some programs still go by the name of VORP. Today, most programs throughout the world identify themselves as victim-offender mediation (VOM). In the United States some programs are also called “victim-offender meetings” or “victim-offender conferences.” Recently, an increasing number of VOM programs have periodically worked with cases involving severe violence, including homicide. This requires advanced training and far more preparation of the parties over many months prior to ever meeting face-to-face. Most programs that focus on victims of severe violence are called “victim offender mediation/dialogue” or simply “victim offender dialogue.” By far the most widespread application of VOM is in property crimes and minor assaults, in thousands of cases in numerous countries throughout the world.

Whereas many other types of mediation are largely settlement driven, victim-offender mediation is primarily dialogue driven, with the emphasis on victim healing, offender accountability, and restoration of losses. Contrary to many other applications of mediation in which the mediator would first meet the parties during the joint mediation session, in most victim-offender mediation programs a very different process occurs, based on a humanistic model of mediation. This model involves reframing the role of the mediator from being settlement driven to facilitating dialogue and mutual aid; scheduling separate pre-mediation sessions with each party; connecting with the parties through building rapport and trust, while not taking sides; identifying the strengths of each party; using a nondirective style of mediation that creates a safe space for dialogue and accessing the strengths of participants; and recognizing and using the power of silence.

Most victim-offender mediation sessions do, in fact, result in a signed restitution agreement. This agreement, however, is secondary to the importance of the initial dialogue between the parties that addresses the emotional and informational needs of victims that are central to their healing and to development of victim empathy in the offender, which can lead to less criminal behavior in the future. Studies consistently find that the restitution agreement is less important to crime victims than the opportunity to talk directly with the offender about how they felt about the crime.

Since its inception in Kitchener, Ontario, with the first victim-offender reconciliation program in 1974, many criminal justice officials have been quite skeptical about victim interest in meeting the offender. Victim-offender mediation is clearly not appropriate for all crime victims. Trained practitioners present it as a voluntary choice to the victim and as voluntary as possible for the offender. Victim-offender mediation now works with many thousands of cases throughout North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. Experience shows that the majority of victims presented with the option of mediation choose to enter the process. A statewide public opinion poll in Minnesota found that 82 percent of a random sample of citizens throughout the state would consider participating in a victim-offender program if they were the victims of a property crime. A multistate study found that, of 280 victims who participated in victim-offender mediation programs in four states, 91 percent felt their participation was totally voluntary.

Victim-offender mediation is the oldest, most widely developed and empirically grounded expression of restorative justice. Restorative justice is a movement that is promoting active involvement of individual victims, victimized communities, families, and offenders in the justice system in ways such that offenders are actively involved in repairing the emotional and physical harm they caused; victims receive far more support, assistance, and input; and positive relationships within communities are strengthened. While restorative justice consists of a wide range of policies and practices and is ultimately a very different way of understanding and responding to the real human impact of crime, the core of restorative justice is anchored in processes that allow for direct dialogue between those affected by crime and those who committed the offense. Examples of the more widely known restorative justice dialogue interventions include victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, and peacemaking circles.

After a quarter of a century of VOM experience, more than 50 empirical studies in several countries have consistently found it to have a positive impact upon victim and offender satisfaction and perceptions of fairness, higher rates of restitution completion, and significantly lower rates of recidivism. Victim-offender mediation and dialogue programs currently work with many thousands of cases annually through several hundred programs throughout the United States and Canada and more than a thousand programs in other parts of the world, including throughout Europe, and in Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, South America, and Ukraine. A recent national survey examining to what degree formal public policy in the United States supported victim-offender mediation found a considerable amount of legislative backing. A total of 29 states had legislation, in one form or another, that addressed victim-offender mediation. Of these, 14 states had specific legislation that spoke to various issues related to the use and development of victim-offender mediation and 15 states had a briefer reference to victim-offender mediation.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has addressed restorative justice through the practice of victim-offender mediation, its most widely used and empirically validated practice. The ABA has played a leadership role over many years in promoting the use of mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution in civil court-related conflicts, yet for most of that time remained skeptical and often critical of mediation in criminal court settings. That changed in 1994 when, after a yearlong study, the ABA fully endorsed the practice of victim-offender mediation and dialogue. The association recommended its use in courts throughout the country and provided guidelines for its use and development.

The United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the European Union have been addressing restorative justice issues for a number of years. In 2002, the United Nations adopted the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programs in Criminal Matters. These principles encourage the use of restorative justice programming by member states at all stages of the criminal justice process, underscore the voluntary nature of participation in restorative justice procedures, and recommend establishment of standards and safeguards for the practice of restorative justice. The Council of Europe focused more specifically on the restorative use of mediation procedures in criminal matters and adopted a set of recommendations in 1999 to guide member states in using mediation in criminal cases. In 2001, the European Union adopted a policy in support of “penal mediation,” otherwise known as victim-offender mediation, asking its member states (nations) to promote mediation in criminal cases and integrate this practice into their laws.

Another clear expression of the growing U.S. support for restorative justice is the National Organization for Victim Assistance endorsement of “restorative community justice.” During the early years of this movement, most victim advocacy groups were quite skeptical, and some still are; however, a growing number of victim support organizations are actively participating in the restorative justice movement.


  1. European Forum for Victim Offender Mediation and Restorative Justice. 2000. Victim Offender Mediation in Europe: Making Restorative Justice Work. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press.
  2. Morris, Allison and Gabrielle Maxwell, eds. 2001. Restorative Justice for Juveniles: Conferencing, Mediation & Circles. Portland, OR: Hart.
  3. Umbreit, Mark S. 1994. Victim Meets Offender: The Impact of Restorative Justice and Mediation. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.
  4. Umbreit, Mark S. 2001. The Handbook of Victim Offender Mediation: An Essential Guide to Practice and Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  5. Umbreit, Mark S., Betty Vos, Robert B. Coates, and Katherine A. Brown. 2003. Facing Violence: The Path of Restorative Justice and Dialogue. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

Ecological Models of Violence Essay

Ecological models focus on multiple levels of influence and result in a comprehensive understanding of human behavior. Research has shown that violence permeates every level of our environment and society, from effects on the individual and family to violence in neighborhoods, communities, and the broader culture. Until recently, researchers investigated unique forms of violence and outcomes, such as child abuse or intimate partner violence, out of the context of the multiple traumas that individuals frequently encounter. Investigators have begun studying exposure to multiple forms of violence and the exponential effects of these experiences on individuals’ health and wellbeing. Researchers know, for example, that child abuse and intimate partner violence overlap in approximately 40% of cases and that siblings in child-abusing families are at risk for abuse themselves. Studies show that interadult violence is replicated in the earliest of social relationships, those of siblings. Further, in cases of childhood sexual abuse, research has shown that violent revictimization in adulthood is high. In addition, researchers know that violence is more likely to occur in certain contexts. For example, children who are the victims of violence are generally more likely to live in urban and poor neighborhoods. Further, by the time the average child graduates from elementary school he or she will have witnessed thousands of murders and tens of thousands of vicarious acts of violence on television, and poor children report the highest exposure.

Thus, it is clear that violence can and does impact individuals at any age, in any environment, and often co-occurs in various forms. However, the broad range of potential influences on violence exposure and perpetration is difficult to organize and assess. One way of capturing the complex array of violent acts and interactive effects is with an ecological model that illustrates influences that occur at different levels of an individual’s environment.

Defining an Ecological Schema

In 1968 Edgar Auerswald first described the use of an ecological approach to understanding family processes by connecting families to the broader community in which they were embedded. Around the same time, Roger Barker described the influence of physical surroundings and social settings on individual behavior. It was Uri Bronfenbrenner, however, who in 1979 first proposed a four-level ecological schema used to illustrate the complex layers of factors found to influence and explain variations in individual behavior. He organized factors as existing within the individual and the family at the microsystem level, which is posited to be surrounded by the mesosystem, or the interrelationships between such places as the school and home or the various components of the microsystem. These systems are nested within the exosystem, which consists of the community setting in which the family is embedded. Finally, these three systems are encompassed by the macrosystem, which is the most distal to the individual and made up of the broader culture’s norms, rules, expectations, and values. Insofar as these levels are nested, they are considered to have transactional qualities—that is, factors at one level can influence, shape, or constrain factors at another level.

Adding the Temporal Dimension to the Ecology

Time, or the chronosystem, is a dimension that was added to the model by Bronfenbrenner in 1986. Here, the developmental influence of the related risk and protective factors found at each contextual level can be tracked over the course of an individual’s life.

The ecological model has been used to explain processes related to single problems, such as substance abuse or child maltreatment. When applied to violence, this model allows us to examine the issues of multiple victimizations and continuity, as it allows us to identify those individuals whose early exposure to violence and maltreatment puts them at risk for revictimization or perpetration in childhood and beyond. Further, by using this model, we can account for what contributes to discontinuous effects; for example, where some children either show no negative effects early on but develop serious problems later in life—the so-called sleeper effects—or show initial problems and recover, only to exhibit negative outcomes at a later date.

The Ecological Model of Violence

Using ecological systems theory, as well as concepts from the field of developmental psychopathology, a comprehensive model can be adapted to account for the varied, intertwined, and transactional forces that shape the lives of individuals who either are responsible for or have been exposed to violence and maltreatment. The model is shown in Figure 1.

Example of Ecological Effects on Children Exposed To Family Violence

To illustrate, a father may have been exposed to violence between his parents when he was growing up. His own child witnesses similar abuse of his mother by his father. This young child may be at risk for later antisociality or delinquency. However, the probability of a delinquent outcome can be reduced or enhanced depending on the availability of resources for the family or community. The child’s young age is an individual-level risk factor that may be countervailed at the contextual level of the family (e.g., having a parent who is not depressed, living in a family with few children, and/or having an empathic mother). Given such protective factors, the child can learn other ways of handling conflict or, perhaps, can get enough attention, information, and support to better cope with the violence.

Figure 1. Ecosytem

However, if the immediate environmental context situates the family in a poor neighborhood with few resources and high exposure to community violence, then the buffering effects provided by the mother’s positive parenting may be diminished or eliminated. In this case, the child may not have access to programs in the school or community; the mother may not be able to use a battered women’s shelter; the child may witness additional acts of violence in the community—some, perhaps, committed against him or his friends. Community resources and initiatives that can provide help for such children are influenced by the broader culture’s beliefs in, and support for, efforts to reduce such violence. These resources at the broadest social level, or lack thereof, can constrain the range of available options for the family in a given neighborhood. Thus, despite the protective features of the home, the risk elements at play in the community may overwhelm the child, who may begin to use violent tactics in interpersonal situations. When such violence is reinforced by role modeling in television and other media, the expectation that violence is an appropriate response to challenges or stress may be enhanced. Difficulties in social relationships, violence in dating relationships, or delinquency and eventual incarceration may follow.

The model also can be used to explain resilient coping in those whose exposure to violence is mitigated by protective features at all levels of the environment and does not lead to unhealthy outcomes. Thus, the model can offer a detailed and complex picture of ways in which features of the individual, family, neighborhood, community, and culture can contribute to more healthy trajectories for those exposed to violence.

Utility of the Ecological Model

The ecological model permits appreciation of how multiple forms of violence in the life of an individual may add up, coalesce, and interact. With this information we can identify individuals whose early exposure to violence and maltreatment may lead them into trouble in adolescence and adulthood. Ideally, interventions can be designed for each level of the ecological system to reduce the salience of violence in the culture, in the media, in schools and neighborhoods, and finally, in the family.

Testing Ecological Models in Research

There is a need to continue to refine the study of violence as a serious developmental risk to children, particularly with studies that address violence early in the life of the child. In addition, studies should assess factors that serve to protect some children from the deleterious consequences of exposure to violence. Yet, there is no study that puts all forms of violence and related risk and protective factors together in accounting for the mental health, physical development, and social competence of young children. However, the national research bodies have called for precisely this type of study. If undertaken all at once, such a study would be prohibitively expensive and involve a large sample followed over time. Still, the issue is to capture as much of the salient environment as possible in trying to understand and explain the contributions of particular stressors to children’s adjustment.

As difficult as it may be to measure the presence of the broadest cultural risk factors, such as the acceptance of an atmosphere of violence, this is the kind of research challenge that needs attention if we are to continue exploring why some children are more seriously affected by violence than others. Further, studies that take the qualities of the immediate neighborhood and broader social context into account can shift focus from the individual to extrafamilial contributing factors. This information can be used to situate the family in a particular ecological niche with certain contextualized features of risk and protection.


  1. Auerswald, E. H. (1968). Interdisciplinary versus ecological approach. Family Process, 7(2), 202–215.
  2. Barker, R. (1968). Ecological psychology: Concepts and methods for studying the environment of human behavior. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  3. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by design and nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  4. Bronfenbrenner, U., ; Evans, G. W. (2000). Developmental science in the 21st century: Emerging questions, theoretical models, research designs, and empirical findings. Social Development, 9(1), 115–125.

Nonviolence Essay

Nonviolence is both a moral principle and a pragmatic means of achieving social and political transformation. Nonviolence and pacifism are often considered synonymous ideas, but in fact they are conceptually and politically distinct. The preeminent scholar of nonviolent action is Gene Sharp, who identified the strategic principles and tactical methods through which nonviolent resistance can undermine oppressive systems of political power. Sharp defined the categories of nonviolent action as protest and persuasion, mass noncooperation (in economic, social, and political spheres), and nonviolent intervention. Commonly used forms of noncooperation and intervention include boycotts, strikes, illegal marches, blockades, and sit-ins.

Mohandas Gandhi, leader of India’s nationalist movement, pioneered the method of mass nonviolent action, satyagraha, as a tool for resisting oppression and injustice and a means of applying pressure for political change. Most who participate in nonviolent action campaigns are not pacifists. They support nonviolent resistance in the manner of Jawaharlal Nehru, an acolyte of Gandhi, who wrote in his 1941 autobiography, Toward Freedom, “We accepted that method . . . not only as the right method but as the most effective one for our purpose” (80).

Gandhian nonviolence goes far beyond mere civil disobedience. It is a method of seeking and upholding truth through the application of social pressure and the interaction of contending forces. It follows a set pattern of action that includes the documentation of grievances, dialogue and negotiation with the adversary, the dramatization of injustices, disciplined training for followers, and the resort to nonviolent collective action.

The civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers famously applied Gandhian methods to advance civil rights for African Americans in the United States. Other examples of successful nonviolent transformation include the “people power” movement of the Philippines in 1986, the “velvet revolutions” in central and eastern Europe in the late 1980s, the flowering of democracy in Chile and other Latin American countries during the 1980s and 1990s, the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in 2000, the so-called orange revolution in Ukraine in 2004, and the April 2006 overthrow of the monarchy in Nepal. Failures of this strategy for change also can be cited—the Tiananmen Square massacre of prodemocracy demonstrators in Beijing, China, in 1989; the isolation and collapse of nonviolent resistance in the Kosovo region of Serbia in the 1990s; and the as yet unsuccessful struggle for democracy in Burma—but the overall record of strategic success of nonviolence is impressive. Nonviolent resistance has been described by Ackerman and DuVall (2000) as “a force more powerful.” The alternative to armed violence is not surrender or appeasement, but the fight for justice through nonviolent means. It is a third way, distinct from armed conflict and inaction, for addressing injustice.

Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth (2008) confirmed the advantages of nonviolent action in a major empirical study examining 323 historical cases of resistance campaigns over a span of more than 100 years. The cases involved sociopolitical movements, sometimes lasting several years, that contended against governments to gain specific political concessions. The study showed that nonviolent means were twice as effective as violent means, achieving success 53 percent of the time, compared to a 26 percent success rate when violence was employed. Moreover, nonviolent action is also more likely to expand political freedom and democracy. An empirical study by Adrian Karatnycky and Peter Ackerman (2005) at Freedom House examined sixty-seven late twentieth-century political transformations and found that nonviolent revolutions were three times more likely than armed struggles to create conditions of increased political freedom.

The key strategic advantage of nonviolent action is the ability of disciplined unarmed movements to withstand government repression. Unjustified brutality against nonviolent action tends to backfire and generate public sympathy and support for the resisters. The repression of nonviolent movements by political authorities can create an atmosphere of disaffection among regime supporters and generate shifts in loyalty that make it easier for nonviolent campaigns to gain political concessions. Sharp emphasized the importance of winning the loyalties of third parties as the key to eroding the power base of corrupt and repressive political regimes. The presence of an audience is crucial to the workings of this third-party effect. Effective public relations and the careful crafting of media messages are therefore crucial to the success of nonviolent action.

The nonviolent method, Gandhi and King emphasized, is a strategy best employed by the strong, not the weak. To challenge injustice and stand unarmed against oppressors requires courage, endurance, fearlessness, and a willingness to sacrifice. It also requires well-coordinated effort. Such traits are necessary to mobilize mass action and are keys to the moral and political effectiveness of the nonviolent action method.


  1. Ackerman, Peter, and Jack DuVall. A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
  2. Cortright, David. Gandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for a New Political Age. 2nd ed. Boulder: Paradigm, 2009.
  3. Karatnycky, Adrian, and Peter Ackerman. “How Freedom Is Won: From Civic Resistance to Durable Democracy.” International Journal of Not-forProfit Law 7, no. 3 (June 2005): 47–59.
  4. King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail.” In A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M.Washington, 289–302. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.
  5. Nehru, Jawaharlal. Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru. New York: John Day, 1941.
  6. Sharp, Gene. The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973.
  7. Stephan, Maria J., and Erica Chenoweth. “Why Civil Resistance Works.” International Security 33, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 7–44.

Victimless Crimes Essay

The term victimless crimes and its alternative phrasing crimes without victims refer to illegal acts that involve behavior that the participants engage in voluntarily. For example, the prostitute and the prostitute’s customer both view their interaction as a business transaction in which, as in other commercial arrangements, both parties achieve what they desire. The prostitute obtains money and the customer has the desired sexual experience. Though the behavior is criminal, neither party will file a police report, unless, perhaps, the transaction involves theft or physical violence.

Similarly, narcotic dealers and their patrons voluntarily agree to a transaction much the same as that involving the purchase of alcohol or shopping for groceries. Abortion, which was illegal in the United States until 1973, poses a more complicated situation. Both the person performing the abortion and the woman undergoing it do so voluntarily. But the burning issue is whether the aborted fetus is a person, a victim deserving legal protection. No scientific evidence can adequately support whatever position is taken on this question; thus pro-life and pro-choice campaigns become, as does so much in the realm of victimless crimes, a matter of ideology, theology, and the exercise of political power.

The term crimes without victims entered the realm of social science when Edwin Schur of Tufts University employed it in 1965 as the title of a monograph. Schur, a Yale Law School graduate with a doctorate from the London School of Economics, had conceived the idea of victimless crimes when writing his dissertation on British drug policies. The term had precedents in Anglo-American law, including “sumptuary laws,” which forbade people of lesser social standing to dress themselves in elegant clothing. There also were “inchoate crimes,” such as loitering, catch-all statutes typically enacted to provide the police with the power to arrest persons they deemed to be suspicious. Similarly, the crime of drunk driving (driving under the influence) does not always involve a victim, but the behavior is outlawed on the presumption that the likelihood of an accident increases when a driver is intoxicated.

Consensual acts also exist that are forbidden by law because of religious principles, social abhorrence, or both. Polygamy, entered into willingly by all parties, and physician-induced suicide exemplify the first category, while riding a motorcycle without a helmet fits into the second category.

A fundamental issue about so-called crimes without victims is whether, though consensual in regard to the participants, they inflict harm upon others, such as spouses and families of compulsive gamblers and residents in a drug-trading neighborhood, or whether they injure society in regard to its moral traditions. Proponents argue that for its well-being, a society has to uphold standards of decency, as generally defined, or risk disorganization and disintegration. Victimless crimes also involve financial costs that must be borne by innocent taxpayers, for instance, when an uninsured motorcyclist not wearing a helmet suffers severe injuries and incurs medical costs that he or she cannot afford. Or when a motorcyclist without a helmet is struck on the head by a stone in the roadway and loses control of the vehicle, killing or maiming motorists on the same highway.

Critics maintain that the idea of victimless crimes essentially is a political and ideological construct, embraced as a rallying cry in an effort to eliminate a variety of controversial behaviors. In its heyday, the idea of victimless crime was joined with the theoretical construct of labeling. Some argued that, say, marijuana users who are prosecuted are thereby defined and come to define themselves as outcasts and as a result may enter into a career of crime. Both labeling theory and the concept of crimes without victims have largely gone out of favor today, the former because evidence shows that the consequences of labeling can be manifold, some enabling, others unfortunate.

Many feminists are among the more prominent forces aligned against the idea of victimless crime. They maintain, for instance, that the typical street-walking prostitute is herself the victim of her calling because she is the product of an exploitative patriarchal society. On the other hand, pornography tends to split the feminist movement, with some arguing that it insults all women and others insisting that the First Amendment right of free speech should take precedence over the speculative idea that women in general are endangered by pornographic depictions of such things as sex degradation.

The most pronounced development over the past decades with regard to crimes without victims has been the success of campaigns to remove many of them from the statute books. Gambling, once outlawed throughout the United States because of religious doctrine and fraud in the operation of lotteries, is now a prominent fixture on the U.S. scene, with a proliferating array of slot machines and lottery tickets marketed even at convenience stories. Homosexuality, now buried in the criminal law closet, today centers on the dispute over whether couples of the same sex can legally marry. Once outlawed, abortion became permissible in the first trimester of pregnancy, though intense controversy continues to divide people on the issue. And some states and countries have moderated drug laws, particularly in regard to marijuana.

Only prostitution remains absolutely interdicted, very likely because prostitutes do not have the political power that was brought to bear to overturn laws against other so-called victimless activities. One could argue that in the cases of abortion and drug legalization, for example, prominent women campaigned for legal abortions, young drug users moved into positions of power, and elite parents refused to see their pot-smoking children risk long prison terms. Likewise, it could be argued that gambling became acceptable when states found themselves desperate for revenue, and legislators dared not risk political suicide by increasing taxes.


  1. Feinberg, Joel. 1988. Harmless Wrongdoing. New York: Oxford University Press.
  2. Meier, Robert F. and Gilbert Geis. 2006. Criminal Justice and Moral Issues. New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. Schur, Edwin H. 1965. Crimes without Victims: Deviant Behavior and Public Policy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  4. Schur, Edwin H. and Hugo A. Bedau. 1974. Victimless Crimes: Two Sides of a Controversy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Early Warning Signs of Intimate Partner Violence Essay

Research has indicated that it is very difficult to leave a violent relationship and that survivors undergo an agonizing process to achieve safety for themselves and their children. Understanding early warning signs and characteristics of intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetrators are critical factors in developing educational messages to help women avoid engaging in relationships with abusers.

National studies with urban, suburban, and rural African American, Hispanic, and White women found the following early warning signs: whirlwind romances involving attempts to quickly and completely involve the woman, extreme charm and flattery, excessive gestures to please her family, jealousy, and early efforts to control and isolate her from her social support system. Other early warning signs include abuse in his home of origin, his abusive behavior toward other women, blaming others for his failures and misbehavior, and alcohol and drug abuse. Additional factors found to be associated with perpetration of partner violence include lower socioeconomic status, deficits in interpersonal skills, and acceptance of the use of violence within relationships. As for the survivors of IPV, studies have found that women with histories of child abuse are more likely to experience IPV as adults.

Numerous national, state, and community domestic violence programs, colleges, and other organizations working with IPV victims and perpetrators have posted Web pages that support the empirical findings and are based on the experience of many IPV survivors. The following points are synthesized from several of these Web sites. They describe a potentially violent partner as someone who

  • is jealous and possessive, won’t allow the woman to have friends, and puts down people who are important to her;
  • checks up on the woman or makes her check in with him;
  • gets too serious about the relationship too fast;
  • won’t accept breaking up;
  • exhibits controlling behavior by being very bossy, giving orders, making all the decisions; tells the woman what she should or shouldn’t wear, doesn’t take her opinion seriously;
  • yells, swears, manipulates, spreads false and degrading rumors, or tries to make the woman feel guilty;
  • threatens, criticizes, or humiliates; makes the woman feel stupid, incapable, lazy, ugly, worthless, helpless, crazy, or trapped;
  • owns or uses weapons;
  • is frightening and causes worry about reactions to things said or done;
  • has unpredictable mood swings, has a history of fighting, is cruel to animals or children, loses his temper quickly, or brags about mistreating others;
  • thinks destructive displays of emotion are signs of love;
  • pressures the woman for sex, is forceful or threatening about sex; thinks women or girls are sex objects;
  • drinks too much or uses drugs; pressures the woman to take drugs or blames the alcohol and drugs for his behavior;
  • blames the woman when he mistreats her; says she provoked him, pressed his buttons, made him do it, led him on;
  • has a history of bad relationships and blames the other person for all the problems or feelings (e.g., saying, “Girls just don’t understand me”);
  • does not accept responsibility for his actions;
  • believes in stereotypical gender roles for males and females; believes one person should be in control and have all the power in a relationship and the other person should be passive and submissive;
  • accepts or defends the use of violence by others;
  • has been warned against by the woman’s family and friends, who may have told her they were worried for her safety.

One Web site cautions that it is important to get to know someone for a long time before getting serious with him, because abusers can be polite and charming for several months at a time to convince their dates that they are acceptable partners.

It has been speculated in the literature that extreme charm and flattery foster a sense of trust on the part of unsuspecting victims and may groom them for succumbing to forceful control later in the relationship. Additionally, early attempts to control behavior may be construed in a positive fashion given the context of flattery. Flattery combined with early forms of control may make women more vulnerable to escalating attempts to control a large number of areas of their lives.

Statistics indicate that one in three teenagers have experienced violence in a dating relationship. Young people initiating dating relationships need to be better prepared for the likelihood of encountering an abusive partner. Although the information summarized here is easily available, additional prevention and intervention programs and targeted messages that reach the right audiences at the right times are needed.


  1. Advocates for Youth. (2006). Dating Violence Among Adolescents. Retrieved from
  2. Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2006). Early warning signs that your date may eventually become abusive. Retrieved from
  3. Bauer, H. M., Rodriguez, M. A., & Perez-Stable, E. J. (2000). Prevalence and determinants of intimate partner abuse among public hospital primary care patients. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 15, 811–817.
  4. The Haven of RCS Domestic Violence Center. (2006). Early warning signs of teen dating violence. Retrieved from
  5. Health First. (2006). Twenty-three warning signs of abusive relationships. Retrieved from
  6. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Bates, L., Smutzler, N., & Sandin, E. (1997). A brief review of the research on husband violence. Part I: Maritally violent versus nonviolent men. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 2, 65–99.
  7. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Smutzler, N., & Bates, L. (1997). A brief review of the research on husband violence. Part III: Sociodemographic factors, relationship factors, and differing consequences of husband and wife violence. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 2, 285–307.
  8. Short, L. M., et al. (2000). Survivors’ identification of protective factors and early warning signs in intimate partner violence. Violence Against Women, 6, 273–287.

Nontariff Barriers To Trade Essay

Nontariff barriers to trade (NTBs) are human-made barriers to trade other than simple tariffs. These restrictive practices are designed to evade free-trade rules imposed by regional or international agreement. They include obstructive customs practices, quotas, product standards that are often justified on health and safety grounds, requirement of licenses, government subsidies or procurement policies, and voluntary export restraints (VERs). What distinguishes NTBs from tariffs is a lack of transparency, which makes their use difficult to prevent. They have proliferated in recent decades, partly because the multilateral trading system has been quite effective, for manufactured goods at least, in reducing the use of tariffs. In response, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and more recently the World Trade Organization (WTO), guided by the principle of nondiscrimination in trade, has significantly extended the coverage of its rules to try to regulate NTBs.

The Growth Of Nontariff Barriers

The multilateral trading system that resulted from the GATT agreement in 1947 did not originally identify NTBs as part of its mandate. It was only in the 1960s during the Kennedy Round of GATT negotiations that they were first considered. During the 1970s, the world economy went through a recession, and the use of trade protectionism to save domestic jobs and industry became politically attractive. It was during this period that the use of NTBs grew at a significant rate, as countries sought to bypass the rules of the GATT. In particular they were used by countries in the West to discriminate against imports from the developing world.

During this period of economic turmoil, the use of VERs also increased substantially. They were usually developed as a response to political pressure from domestic industries that felt threatened by the growth of competitive imports. VERs were most often arranged on a bilateral basis with the exporting country “voluntarily” limiting the quantity of its exported goods to its trade partner. The United States, for example, had already been using VERs as part of its trade policy, but their use escalated in the early 1970s. VERs also began to be used for trade between developed economies in industries such as steel and automobiles. The Tokyo Round of the GATT (1973–1979) attempted to address the use of NTBs by creating six voluntary codes. However, these Tokyo codes, as they became known, were not very effective, because they were separate from the main rules of the GATT and applied only to those countries that chose to sign them. As a result, by the early 1980s it was clear that the GATT had become increasingly irrelevant in the face of these new forms of trade protectionism.

The WTO And Nontariff Barriers

The final round of the GATT led to the creation of the WTO at the beginning of 1995. This agreement made significant progress on the regulation of NTBs. The Tokyo codes that had proved rather ineffective were developed and made compulsory for all member states. Because of this, the WTO is now increasingly involved with domestic policies and institutional practices. Examples include the agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS). The latter tries to balance the need to ensure that food imports do not pose a threat to the health of consumers with the desire to make sure that health and safety standards are not being used to protect domestic producers. These standards tend to reflect those used in developed countries, and it is therefore developing countries that tend to bear the majority of the implementation costs. A similar problem faces developing countries in complying with the agreement on customs valuation. This aims to ensure a uniform procedure for estimating the cost of products when they reach customs. The Doha Development Round (named after Doha, Qatar)—the current trade negotiation round of the WTO—has stalled over disagreements on major issues, including NTBs.

Some critics of the WTO’s regulation of NTBs are unhappy with the intrusion into areas previously considered domestic politics. One particularly contentious case relating to the SPS agreement is the dispute between the European Union (EU) and the United States over the European ban on beef imports from cattle that have been injected with a growth hormone. The ban was justified by the EU on scientific grounds that the meat posed a health risk to consumers. The WTO’s Dispute Settlement Panel took advice from the World Health Organization and ruled that there was no health risk. The EU has continued the ban, and the WTO has allowed retaliatory trade measures by the United States and Canada.


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  2. Fisher, Bob. “Preference Erosion, Government Revenues and Non-Tariff Trade Barriers.” The World Economy 29 (2006): 1377–1393.
  3. Grieco, Joseph M. Cooperation among Nations: Europe, America, and Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.
  4. Hoekman, Bernard M., and Michel M. Kostecki. The Political Economy of the World Trading System:The WTO and Beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  5. Victor, David G. “WTO Efforts to Manage Differences in National Sanitary and Phytosanitary Policies.” In Dynamics of Regulatory Change: How Globalization Affects National Regulatory Policies, edited by David Vogel and Robert Kagan, 227–268. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.