Violence Overview

Violence is a major challenge to public health and happiness. Each year, more than 1.6 million people worldwide will die as a result of the intentional use of physical force or power exercised to control another person or groups of people. This includes warfare, terrorist attacks, riots and violence connected with criminal activity, as well as suicides and domestic violence.


The threat of physical attack is a source of danger and fear for many around the world. Violent crimes such as rape and sexual assault, battery, homicide, and forced robbery not only cause extreme harm to an individual, but also send waves of grief and insecurity throughout the victim’s community. Violent crime is associated with income inequality, but is difficult to predict case by case. Further confounding the problem is the underreporting of such incidents, often because telling an authority is too difficult or embarrassing for the victim. Because of the complexity of this problem, individuals and governments alike must take steps to reduce violent crime.


Bullying is aggressive social behavior such as unwanted sexual advances, threats, physical abuse, and encouraging others to mistreat the victim. A bully repetitively intimidates to gain control over the victim. While anyone can be a target of bullying, people who are “different” are at highest risk. This might include the disabled, or those of ethnic, religious, physical or sexual minorities. Bullying may occur at school, in the workplace or the home. Cyber bullying is another major aspect of the problem. In this form, online and mobile technologies are used to threaten, manipulate or abuse others. Cyber bullying can also cross over into physical violence. Typically instigated by youth, 80% of residents worldwide say cyber bullying is a problem that needs dedicated attention from schools and parents.

Child Abuse

Child abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment of a child. While maltreatment occurs across socio-economic, religious, cultural, racial and ethnic groups, child deaths linked to abuse or neglect are reportedly twice as high in low-income countries as in developed nations. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 40 million children under the age of 15 are abused each year. Sexual abuse in the home is a plight shared by all nations; in fact, in most cases children know their abusers. Maltreatment in childhood is consistently linked to psychological and health problems in adulthood. Additionally, it is generally believed that people who were formerly abused are more likely to abuse their own children.

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse occurs when implicit trust is violated by physical, psychological, sexual, financial or neglectful abuse. Often, dependence on others for care, financial support or other necessities can make an elderly person more vulnerable to exploitation. Ageism, or discriminatory behavior toward elderly people by producing attitudes that marginalize their well-being. One in ten elders reports experiencing some form of abuse, and strangers are not always to blame; approximately half of all perpetrators of elder abuse are related to the victim.

Hate Crimes

When a perpetrator targets a victim based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex or gender identity, the violence is described as a hate crime. Savage acts of harassment can lead to torture and even death. Because many victims are usually from marginalized or ethnic minority groups, hate crimes are frequently under-reported. The incidence of hate crimes is heightened by organizations that encourage racist, sexist, and/or homophobic ideology and violence, such as racist skinhead groups. Worldwide, government responses to bias-motivated violence have been inadequate, as many instances of hate crime continue to occur.

Organized Crime

Organized crime includes street gangs as well as international organized crime networks. Gangs are a widespread source of gun violence and youth crime; according to the FBI, there are some 33,000 violent gangs in America, with a membership base of about 1.4 million. Due to globalization, organized crime has reached macro-economic proportions. Illicit goods are sourced from one continent, trafficked across another, and marketed to a third. From drug cartels, modern pirates and money laundering to modern-day slavery, counterfeit goods and identity theft, criminal acts like these can reap profits in the tens of billions of dollars. Drug production and trade can devastate an entire nation; for example, in Mexico and Colombia, the illicit drug industry has produced catastrophic and seemingly inescapable war between industry captains and government leaders.

Partner Abuse

Domestic and dating violence includes verbal insults, social isolation, threatened or actual physical harm, and unwanted sexual contact. In the US, 30% of all female homicide victims are killed in an assault related to a dating or marital relationship. Women with disabilities, including mental illness and deafness, are at greater risk for intimate partner violence than women without these disabilities. Teens and tweens are also at significant risk. Victimization rates during middle school and high school have grown substantially. As these relationships cycle between harmony and violence, they become increasingly dangerous for victims. The number of violent deaths only tells part of the story; many more survive but are left with permanent physical and emotional scars.


Vandalism is the willful destruction of private or public property. Because this type of defacement poses a threat to society, modern statutes make vandalism a crime. Criminal vandalism can take many forms, including graffiti, the wanton destruction of schools, and arson. Often associated with juvenile delinquency, the peak period for committing these types of crimes is between the ages of 15 and 21. Vandalism is also associated with impoverished urban neighborhoods because urban disorder exists in higher rates within skid rowsghettos and slums.


The right to bear arms is both a national and international point of debate.  On the one hand,global treaties are being put in place to regulate international weapons trade, but not everyone wants to limit individual ownership of weapons.  Proponents of gun ownership believe that it is an important mode of self-defense, while weapon-control advocates argue that controlling and restricting access willreduce violent crime.  Nevertheless, both sides seek the policy that will best provide safety for the innocent.