Cure Violence revolutionizes the perception and reduction of violence by promoting a public health and science-based perspective. Not unlike AIDS or tuberculosis, violence is a disease. If such a contagious epidemic is ignored, it is not cured, but rather, it spreads. Cure Violence understands that violence persists despite external punishment or moral judgment. In order to effectively combat peaking societal violence, social norms must be targeted from the source.

The people are not to be blamed for this epidemic, but are instead our number one resource in countering the problem. Cure Violence connects with trusted community members committed to both transforming the direction of their lives as well as to cleansing the violence from their hometowns. These individuals have experienced and participated in the violence first hand. They make it possible to anticipate where violence will occur and to intervene before violence has a chance to erupt. These individuals further act as mentors for high-risk individuals, illustrating a path out of violence and an opportunity for a more nourishing life.

Entire communities are enabled to voice a powerful message with the help of Cure Violence. At the site of shootings or common violent attacks, communities gather to protest and insist that violence is devastating, destroying both sides of the conflict, and simply not the answer.

In this video of Vimeo, Gary Slutkin, the founder of Cure Violence, explains how he turned his years of fighting infectious diseases into an initiative to combat violence in his hometown of Chicago.

The Cure Violence Model is a public health approach to violence prevention that understands violence as a learned behavior that can be prevented using disease control methods. The model prevents violence through a three-prong approach:

1) Interrupt transmission

2) Identify and change the thinking of highest potential transmitters

3) Change group norms


Interrupt transmission

The Cure Violence model deploys violence interrupters who use a specific method to locate potentially lethal, ongoing conflicts and respond with a variety of conflict mediation techniques both to prevent imminent violence and to change the norms around the need to use violence. Cure Violence hires culturally appropriate workers who live in the community, are known to high-risk people, and have possibly even been gang members or spent time in prison, but have made a change in their lives and turned away from crime. Interrupters receive specific training on a method for detecting potential shooting events, mediating conflicts, and keeping safe in these dangerous situations.

Identify and change the thinking of highest potential transmitters

Cure Violence employs a strong outreach component to change the norms and behavior of high-risk clients. Outreach workers act as mentors to a caseload of participants, seeing each client multiple times per week, conveying a message of rejecting the use of violence, and assisting them to obtain needed services such as job training and drug abuse counseling. Outreach workers are also available to their clients during critical moments – when a client needs someone to help him avoid a relapse into criminal and violent behavior. The participants of the program are of highest risk for being a victim or perpetrator of a shooting in the near future, as determined by a list of risk factors specific to the community. In order to have access and credibility among this population, Cure Violence employs culturally appropriate workers, similar to the indigenous workers used in other public health models.

Change group norms

In order to have lasting change, the norms in the community, which accept and encourage violence, must change. At the heart of Cure Violence’s effort at community norm change is the idea that the norms can be changed if multiple messengers of the same new norms are consistently and abundantly heard. Cure Violence uses a public education campaign, community events, community responses to every shooting, and community mobilization to change group and community norms related to the use of firearms.

Three additional elements are essential for proper implementation. First, with all of these components, data and monitoring are used to measure and provide constant feedback to the system. Second, extensive training of workers is necessary to ensure that they can properly carry out their duties. This includes an initial training before they are sent out on the streets, follow up trainings every few months, and regular meetings in which techniques for effective work are reviewed. Third, the program implements a partnership with local hospitals so that workers are notified immediately of gunshot wound victims admitted to emergency rooms. These notifications enable workers to respond quickly, often at the hospital, to prevent retaliations.

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