Violence, in all its varied shapes, is prevalent all around the world. From the abductions with impunity in Colombia, to the attacks and harassment of LGBT people in Russia, and to the mass rapes in Darfur. It is a violation of the right to freedom of expression, the right not to be subjected to torture or any cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and not to mention the right to life; it is a widespread atrocity countering the fight for and the practice of the human rights.
How can we counter this violence? This is a question that cannot be answered within the space of this article. But let us ask further questions about its nature to develop our understanding. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist and the Founder/Executive Director of Cure Violence, suggests that violence should be treated like a disease. Violence actually shows the same kind of spreading than epidemic diseases – it appears after exposure to violence. And this opens up the possibility for a new strategy through which to counter violence:
“The cure Violence Health Model adapts methods used to stop the transmission of some of the most deadly diseases, including AIDS, cholera, and tuberculosis. These disease control methods work by 1) Interrupting transmission of the disease, 2) reducing the risk of the highest risk and 3) changing community norms”
It is basically a bottom-up method and the need for it is exactly what the political scientist Séverine Autesserre highlighted in her book The Trouble with the Congo. Autesserre explains that the international peace efforts have failed because of the presence of a dominant peacebuilding culture. Most nongovernmental organizations that work with the resolution of conflict understand the causes of violence as something that is primarily located in the national and international spheres viewing the path toward peace as something that requires top-down intervention. But the finding from her research is that peacebuilding measures must be exerted both bottom-up as well as top-down.
What about violence within the opaque walls of our homes? Violence that is hard to trace due to the dependence between the victim and the offender rendering the reports of violence unsatisfactory. How can victims be empowered to use their voice? Julia Bacha, Peabody award-winning filmmaker and the Creative Director at Just Vision, wants people to act by paying attention to the victim’s striving for their rights. Bacha experienced, during the creation of the film Budrus, that people needed attention in order to continue with their non-violent resistance. To not receive attention was as if their efforts had never happened. But with attention, the efforts could no longer be whisked away as a disturbance of the public order – a ground for limiting people’s human rights – but they would instead be heard and respected. Furthermore, giving attention to the non-violent resistance inspired others to act because they could now see that it did make a difference to resist and raise your own voice.