Experience of Violence

Thank you for
taking the time to
on the proximities
to violence
in your life
and social networks.

You said you
personally know
X people who
might physically hurt
another person.
How many of these hurts
involved a gun
and when
did they erode
your sense of community?

You said you
personally know
Y people who
have been shot
by someone else.
How many of these peoples
were shot on purpose
and when does Y
become a number too
loud to count?

You said you
personally know
Z people who
own a gun.
How many of these guns
have shot their hurt
at other people
and at what point does living
in your neighbourhood
resemble living
in a cemetery?

A protestor at the 2018 March for Our Lives on De la Guerra Plaza and State Street in Santa Barbara, California (Image Credit: skolr via Wikimedia Commons).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that violence is broadly felt by millions of Californians.

Fuelled by gun violence, cities across the United States are breaking all-time homicide records. According to the 2020 Uniform Crime Report from the FBI, homicides rose 30% from 2019 to 2020, the largest single-year increase the agency has recorded since it began tracking these crimes in the 1960s. Previous studies of exposure to violence have tended to focus on events such as direct or witnessed abuse, and there is much evidence to suggest that these exposures can have long-lasting adverse effects on all parties and their extended networks and communities, particularly when firearms are involved.

In this new study, researchers decided to focus on a broader range of experiences of violence in daily life; for example, hearing gunshots, encountering a sidewalk memorial to a violent death, or learning about a violent event through a friend or family member. The researchers surveyed 2,870 adults from across California, asking them questions that related to their own experiences of violence, and in total 65% of the participants reported one or more such experience with 11% reporting three or more. Other trends included knowledge of people who had shot themselves being greatest amongst respondents aged 60 years or older, and the knowledge of persons being at risk of violence to themselves being greatest amongst people aged 18-29 years. Ultimately this research shows that in California the majority of people have at least one experience of violence and given that this is a state with relatively low rates of firearm violence, this situation is likely to be much worse in other regions across the United States.


6 thoughts on “Experience of Violence”

  1. Jan. 6 Insurection

    Wrapped in
    Immersed in
    Believing in
    The Second Amendment
    But intent on
    The rest of
    The Constitution
    – B. Valerie Peckler

    Violence in America is a complicated problem.

      • The typo on Insurrection was not intentional, but I was so inspired by your poem I responded a bit too quickly.
        I really liked the form and arc of your poem. The article does not go deeply into guns and suicide, a major public health issue that can get tied up in politics. My son has been involved in getting some legislation passed to deal with background check requirements for gun purchases and getting guns removed temporarily from individuals with mental health issues such as depression. Each violent death leaves its mark on a community and generations.


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