Ph.D., President and CEO, Blue Shield of California Foundation
|Robert K. Ross
President and CEO, California Endowment
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D.
Vice President, Corporate Communications, Verizon Wireless
What is your industry doing to prevent violence from occurring?
Peter Long: Historically, philanthropy has played a key role in addressing many forms of violence. For us in particular, our support is focused on improving access to services for survivors of domestic abuse, and ensuring the right systems are in place to stop it from happening at all. This includes efforts to prevent violence in military families.
Robert K. Ross: The root cause of this tragedy is a national epidemic of young people who are disconnected, disengaged or disempowered. Philanthropic foundations support efforts to create a better path for youth and prevent violence before it starts. For example, we invest in social enterprises (like Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles) that create jobs for young men captive to gangs.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey: Violence is an urgent public health problem, and its prevention is essential to building a strong, vibrant culture of health across America. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports promising strategies that foster healthy relationships and communities, and pairs them with research that builds the evidence to successfully reduce violence.
Torod Neptune: For more than a decade, Verizon has been committed to ending domestic violence. We have leveraged our resources like the Verizon Foundation and HopeLine from Verizon to provide critical resources to victims and survivors. Moreover, Verizon customers can dial #HOPE from their wireless phones to be immediately connected to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Do you believe that anyone can put a stop to violence?
Peter Long: I believe that everyone has a role to play, and yet none of us can do it alone. Putting a stop to violence will require a movement — one that changes our perceptions about violence and builds upon collaboration to drive lasting change.
Robert K. Ross: We each possess the power to “let violence prevention begin with me.” As Ghandi stated: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” If mothers and fathers of murder victims can promote peace and reconciliation — as so many have across our nation — then practicing peace is possible for all of us.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey: We know that violence is a learned behavior that people can unlearn. Programs like Cure Violence interrupt cycles of neighborhood gun violence. Start Strong helps stop teen dating abuse before it starts. And Keeping Families Together provides vulnerable families with the stability to end abuse at home. We’re helping such efforts spread more widely.
Torod Neptune: We all can make a difference. Speaking up against domestic violence is critical and everyone’s responsibility in order to help end it. There are a number of resources available to help start the conversation. Verizon also invites the public to donate their old phones to HopeLine to help support domestic violence victims and survivors.
What do you think is the most important problem we need to solve in the violence space?
Peter Long: One critical piece we need to get right is early prevention. Violence breeds more violence; once that that cycle has begun, we’re already too late. In order to make meaningful progress, we must act strategically and collectively to prevent violence before it starts.
Robert K. Ross: When children repeatedly experience violence and neglect, their minds and bodies don’t develop in normal healthy ways. This causes them to be in a constant state of “fight or flight”—a top predictor of academic failure and misbehavior. Children are resilient and can transcend trauma, but only if we know what they’re going through and give them proper support.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey: It’s hard for children to grow up healthy if they live amidst violence. Toxic stress levels from repeated violence exposure can derail healthy brain development and have damaging, long-term effects on learning, behavior and health. We must intervene earlier to help kids traumatized by violence and intensify efforts to prevent it from occurring at all.
Torod Neptune: Domestic violence touches so many people. This critical social issue impacts nearly one in four women, one in seven men and more than 3 million children in the United States. We need to end the silence and break the cycle of violence. People should not have to live in fear.