There is no single cause or quick fix for social violence, and myths can get in the way of understanding the issue. Myths can lead people to blame the wrong things for social violence or oversimplify the solution.
To create lasting change, violence prevention strategies must address the complex factors that lead to violence by targeting the system, not the symptoms.
Here are some common myths and misconceptions around social violence.
Myth #1 – Alcohol is the main cause of violence
FACT: There is no doubt that alcohol plays a role in social violence but it is not the cause.
Violence is a complex and multi-dimensional issue that is driven by a range of factors, including individual attitudes, previous experiences of violence and social norms.1
The relationship between alcohol and violence is not as simple as cause and consequence. While alcohol does impair decision-making and increase impulsivity, alcohol does not make people aggressive or fundamentally change their personality. Likewise, most people can enjoy a drink without becoming violent.
Myth #2 – Victims of social violence probably did something to deserve it
FACT: It’s never the victim’s fault.
It is not the responsibility of the victim to avoid violence. In the same way that a woman is not “asking for it” if she wears a short skirt.
When it comes to social violence, victim-blaming is widespread. Rather than finding excuses for violence, we need to recognise that nobody deserves it.
Myth #3 – Men fight because they are inherently violent
FACT: Violence is a learned behaviour, which means it is also a taught behaviour.2
Boys are not hardwired for violence, they are often taught from an early age not to back down when threatened, show no emotion except anger and when all else fails, to show toughness by withstanding or inflicting physical pain. This is because society teaches men that violence is not only an acceptable form of conflict resolution, but one that is admired.3
Myth #4 – Tougher sentencing will stop one-punch assaults
FACT: Sentencing is an important part of the solution to end social violence, however it is not the only solution as punitive consequences alone is not enough to change behaviour.
Research suggests that harsher punishment is not an effective deterrent of violence. Studies from the Sentencing Council of Victoria4 indicate that the threat of prison is not considered in the heat of the moment.
1Slutkin, Gary. “Violence is a contagious disease”. Washington, DC, 2012.
2Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture. Kanopy Streaming, 2014.
3Kimmel, Michael. “Guyland.” The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. New York, 2008.
4Sentencing Advisory Council, Mandatory Sentencing Information Paper, August 2008.