Archive for Thursday, March 31, 1994

COMMUNITY FORUM SEEKS SOLUTIONS TO VIOLENCE

March 31, 1994

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Lawrence's first-ever community forum on violence put the spotlight on an issue of growing concern to residents and community leaders.

Poverty, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse and insufficient skills for dealing with anger all contribute toward violence.

The solutions to violence are as complex as the causes, panel members and Lawrence residents said Wednesday evening at a forum on violence.

"We need to reinvent our community," said Clifford Sargeon, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Crime in Kansas City, Mo. "As adults, we're here because we're terrorized."

Americans who grew up watching Westerns on television have the idea that violence is OK "if you're certain it's right and you can't think of anything else to do," said Karen Ushman, a counselor at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

"It's better to know how to negotiate, how to assert yourself," she said. "The only justification for violence is if your own life is in danger."

The three issues of youth violence, family violence and violence in the media were examined during a three-hour community forum and call-in television show at Lawrence's city hall.

The forum, "Giving Our Community Hope, an American Town Talks About Violence," was co-sponsored by Sunflower Cablevision, the city of Lawrence and the Lawrence Alliance. It was broadcast live on Channel 6 and KLWN-AM radio.

Lawrence may not appear to have as much of a violence problem compared to other cities such as Kansas City and Topeka, but it's growing, said District Judge Jean Shepherd, who presides over juvenile court hearings in Douglas County.

"I'm concerned that children in this community grow up where they can feel safe," she said. "Lawrence should be a place where kids can learn. They can't do that when they're scared."

A discussion about violence in the media zeroed in on television, government regulation and free speech considerations.

"It's scary, when you have government legislating a commercial business," said Darrell Alexander, a rap record producer. "When they set parameters, they can move parameters. If the door is opened, it's hard to control what they can do. To say a private enterprise should help raise children, it takes the responsibility off the parents."

But the public has a right to dictate network content, said John Wright, a media researcher at Kansas University, because "it's our airwaves. We have a right to regulate what goes on them."

In the forum's third hour, talk turned to family violence and changing attitudes among law enforcement officials.

"Violence in the home is like violence in the community," said Liane Davis, associate dean of KU's School of Social Welfare. "It's very much a criminal act. The community needs to give a broad message that violence is not tolerated....When the police see a woman beaten, whether it's her husband or a stranger, her attacker should be charged with a criminal act."

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