Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Explores Causes of Violence Among Young Black Men

John A. Rich a physician, a professor at Drexel University and former director of the Boston Public Health Commission has written an interesting book on violence among young black men. Rich's book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time:Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men, provides a vivid look at the cause and effect of violence in troubled neighborhoods.

The background statistics are astounding. The homicide rate for black males ages 15-24 is 92 deaths per 100,000 people. The homicide rate for white males the same age is 4.7 per 100,000. The homicide rate for young black men is 19 times higher than young white men.

Rich makes clear that "homicide is only the tip of the iceberg." The book is not about homicide and when you look at the pervasive nature of non-lethal trauma you understand why. For every murder in this country there are 94 non-lethal assaults. There are four non-fatal gunshot victims for every murder; 64 non-fatal stabbings for every lethal stabbing; and 3,243 non-fatal assaults for every deadly assault. There are over 1.6 million victims of non-fatal shootings, stabbings or assaults every year in this country.

As Rich delves into the personal stories of traumatic gunshot wound survivors, he begins to paint a vivid picture of how violence and trauma simply breed more violence and trauma. Young people who feel vulnerable seek out protection in the form of weapons, often firearms, to sooth their insecurities. The hyper-vigilance that comes with things like post traumatic stress disorder contribute to the cyclical nature of violence. Rich describes what drives these young men back to violent injury as "the hazy fog of trauma."

The numbers don't lie. Forty-five percent of young black men who receive a penetrating injury (gunshot or stab wound) receive a similar injury within five years--at some point 20-percent of those victims die of a subsequent penetrating injury.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men
John A. Rich
Johns Hopkins University

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