Freedom from fear: tackling violence in our communities.

Author:Achilles, Mary

"We look forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms. First is the freedom of speech and expression. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way. The third is freedom from want. ... The fourth is freedom from fear."

Franklin D. Roosevelt

This quote, for me, outlines the basic principles that distinguish the United States from all other nations. The first three of Roosevelt's freedoms are still alive in this country, but we no longer have the fourth. The violence that permeates our communities rocks the foundation of freedom on which this country was built. As Americans we cherish our rights, which in theory cannot be taken away from us. Yet the fight to be free from fear of violence has been stripped away and replaced with the knowledge that most of us will become victims of violence at some time in our lives.

A statistical overview of crime and victimization in the United States prepared by the National Victim Center reveals that five out of six Americans will be victims of violent crime at least once. It also shows that the number of violent crimes increased 11 percent between 1990 and 1991; only 49 percent of all violent victimizations were reported to law enforcement; 60 percent of Americans limit the places they will go by themselves; almost one-third limit where they will shop; and 22 percent limit where they will work based on their fear of crime.

Our fear of violence has forced us to retreat to limited areas where we feel safe. Yet statistics show that the likelihood that we will be victimized has not decreased. We have become a society that allows violent criminals to take away our rights.

Victim's advocates across the country know the dimensions of this fear; we have seen it firsthand in the faces of the victims we serve. As an advocate, I also have seen the loneliness that can occur in the aftermath of an attack if a victim does not receive the attention he or she needs.

When we talk about preventing violence, we, as a society, must talk about responding to victims. Violence is a community problem that requires a community response. We must acknowledge its existence and its impact on individual victims. Victim...

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