Part 1: Youth Violence - Apathy, Inaction, Normailsaition?
The rise and continued deaths of young boys in the UK due to knife violence is as tragic as it is preventable. In early 2017, London has a 15 year old young man killed outside his school whilst in Leeds a 16 year old was stabbed to death on his way home from school. Last year, nationally, a young person was stabbed every 16 minutes http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38752258.
The Police will focus rightly on catching the other young people involved in these crimes, families will be left devastated, social media will be full of messages of condolence from peers and friends. But for those passionate about tackling this issue not much more will change.
It is easy to start with blaming young men for their behaviour; they know the difference between right and wrong, or we could blame it on lack of fathers, appropriate role models or poverty. Alternatively, we could suggest that the closing down of youth services, underfunding of the community and voluntary sector have contributed to the issue. However, I think there are deeper issues that help to perpetuate knife crime.
Firstly, the use of social media has meant that issues that were once confined to those directly involved can now be shared to a mass audience, importantly the insults or slights that are seen as 'disrespect' continue in front of peers on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. This means that the need for young men to defend their reputation has real world consequences as online 'disrespect' needs to be punished and a wider message needs to show that they are not weak or a push over. The inaction by professionals to actively engage and understand the impact of social media is a massive issue; for example Local Authorities are still blocking employees from Youtube. How can adults understand new behaviour dynamics when policies and leadership lag so far behind.
Secondly, the post-code territorialism which was London-centric now seems to have spread out to other major cities. Initially, this was based on gang boundaries but now seems to have become a mind-set where there are no-go areas which confine young boys and men to streets and estates for fear of being attacked.
This seems to be acknowledged by professionals working with this vulnerable group yet they still expect them to attend court, Youth Offending Team Meetings, schools and other adult meetings apathetic to the invisible walls that young people have to negotiate on a daily basis to stay safe.
Finally, the need to address young men as victims first. This has been something I have raised time and again. Sadly, I would say that in lots of sectors this has been normalised and ignored as we seek to address the offending behaviour rather than the reasons behind which is often the fear of becoming a victim (again).
Across the education and youth justice system the acceptance of victimisation and the failure to address it in any meaningful way means that young men, and in some cases young women, will continue to carry knifes because they don't feel safe. How can they trust adults to protect them from their previous experience of victimisation, when they don't acknowledge the issue.
In the second part I will discuss the problem with present interventions to address serious youth violence.
For further reference: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/serious_youth_violence_report_-_london_assembly.pdf