When conflicts arise, the people at the heart of the conflict often think and behave differently than they would under normal circumstances. They may become angry or even enraged. They may feel a sense of competitiveness, a feeling that they will not allow themselves to be disrespected. They may have an exaggerated idea of what the other party is thinking or doing, as well as the people around them. All of these conditions can create a situation where the people in the conflict believe that they cannot settle their conflict without violence.
In these types of situations, it is essential for third parties to act. Third parties are people who are affected by a conflict, but are not centrally involved. Because these third parties have an interest in the conflict being settled peacefully, they can be motivated to act. Because they are not centrally involved, they are able provide common ground and a process for dialogue to achieve an outcome that is favorable to all. As mediator and writer William Ury states, “[Third party involvement is] a kind of social immune system that prevents the spread of the virus of violence.”
Cure Violence’s violence interrupters are professional third party actors. In the most violent communities, the level of violence is so great and is so lethal, that third parties typically fail to act and violence in these communities is left largely unchallenged. Professional violence interrupters have the training and connections to the community to be able to provide common ground and start a dialogue in even the most dangerous, high-risk situations – situations where, without a third party, a simple conflict would turn into deadly violence.