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Letter to the Editor: We can prevent violence

on April 30, 2014 10:59 AM

Are Alex Hribal and Anjohnito Willet twins? They both committed acts of extreme violence at school. They are both being tried as adults.

It feels better to consider these boys sociopaths who must be isolated from the rest of society; this is the approach Mr. Blair seems to be suggesting in his letter of April 19 (“Violence arises from corrupted society”).

However, brain research indicates these boys won’t have adult reasoning abilities until they are around 23 years old and they can both learn to live without violence.

Predicting when an eruption of violence will occur is extremely difficult; however, recognizing the warning signs of a person with severe distress building up, and taking steps to reduce this distress, is much simpler.

I agree with Mr. Blair that ending violence is not going to be a fast fix; I am personally committed to a 20-year effort to significantly decrease violence and a 120-year effort to make interpersonal violence rare. Right now we need to recognize that most people who commit acts of violence are living life the best way they know how. The transformation that is needed is to improve the best way they know how.

Maureen McHugh, Christian Vaccaro and I have developed the REACH conference, which will be held at IUP from May 20 to May 23. Mr. Blair is correct — attending one conference won’t end violence. However, this conference will help attendees identify ways, whether big or small, they could contribute to a grass-roots movement to make interpersonal violence rare.

Come hear Denise Holtz, J.D., talk about human trafficking. Learn to recognize the signs that the custodian in a department store, or the five women in the room next to you at a hotel, might be individuals being trafficked as slaves. Rather than just feeling uncomfortable, know who to call to report this and let more expert people investigate. If this is the only thing that you take away from the conference, is it worthwhile for you to attend?

If you come to REACH, you may leave feeling tired and irritated — there is a lot to do to end violence. However, you will be better able to recognize the signs that a risky situation is building up and know how to access help to reduce risk. If we build a community of determination, we can reduce acts of violence in our community. To register, go to

Pearl Berman

IUP psychology professor

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