Family violence: Reflection of a Disconnected Society

By: Diana Bello Aristizábal

Para leer en Español

In March 2024, a Hispanic mother was sentenced to life in prison after abandoning her 16-month-old daughter for 10 days in June 2023, causing her to die (violence by neglect), while in October 2023, a 13-year-old boy killed his mother in Hialeah. In December, a man murdered the mother of his three children in Miramar. These events and others that go unreported force us to ask ourselves what is happening in our society.

Is violence and murder between family members increasing compared to other times? What triggers this type of homicide? And what can we do as a society to decrease it? These are some of the questions that pop up when we hear of news like the ones above because although every murder or violent act is reprehensible, it leaves us even more stunned when it happens at home.

“The problem with respect to domestic violence homicide or family violence homicide cases is that we really don’t know if they are increasing because a large percentage of them are still listed as unknown in the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Report. This means the police don’t know the victim-offender relationship when they reply to a scene,” explains Alex Piquero, professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Miami.

Sometimes, when authorities verify afterward that there is a family link, the data is corrected in the FBI report, while in other instances, this never happens, and the case is reported as unknown. “That’s why I’m a little hesitant to say we are seeing a true increase in the frequency of those cases rather than an increase in news reports about it. I’m more convinced of the latter”.

What the expert has been able to verify in his research is that during the pandemic and the first year after it, cases of domestic and interpersonal violence increased significantly in the United States and the rest of the world. That is, physical attacks that didn’t lead to the death of one of the parties involved.

What is the root of the problem?

Although it’s uncertain if there are more murders between family members today than before, the current context deserves an analysis to understand the scope of the problem. For Jairo Ledezma, assistant professor of sociology and history at Miami Dade College, Homestead Campus, social media, and work and information overload have left us with less time to connect with others, which has made us less empathetic and sensitive and more indifferent, exacerbating this type of cases.

But, Professor Piquero disagrees with the statement that says there is a relationship between social media and violence. “I think when a person takes someone’s life, especially if there is a family connection, social media is probably the least of the concerns.”

And what about the violent content that people consume on social media, websites, video games, or movies? The University of Miami professor says there is no evidence that indicates a connection between the above and domestic or family homicide.

“There are many more people who view violent images or engage in violent video games that never commit homicide than the opposite. It seems to me it could lead to homicidal behavior in those who already have a disposition for it.”

Jairo Ledezma believes it’s not so much the violent content itself that can lead to homicidal behavior, but the fact that in children, the exposure to this type of content many times comes from a lack of attention at home. “Many parents use digital tools as babysitters, not even knowing what their children see on screens or the mental damage it could cause in some, even more so if they lack support networks and work all day long.”

As a result, families have become increasingly disconnected from reality due to being immersed in the virtual world and many children are growing up alone. “There is a current tendency to promote more egalitarian or horizontal family relationships, which is not bad but taken to the extreme can cause boundaries and respect to be lost.”

However, the two experts agree that beyond all, in the United States the real villains are guns. “We have many more homicides than other countries and it’s not that we are more violent but the fact that we have more access to lethal weapons,” Piquero says.

“American culture revolves around fear. They will tell you that you need to protect yourself and that doing so has to do with the principle of freedom on which this country was built, but what happens when people don’t know how to make decisions in a society that puts weapons within their reach, as it happens in Florida?”, Ledezma reflects.

A dose of empathy and values

Fighting violence as a society requires that we reconnect with our emotions, put mental health first, and raise children with clear guidelines. “Violence is never the answer to anything, and that message must be passed on to children as well as the importance of socializing, exercising self-control and respecting others,” Professor Piquero suggests.

Also, adults need to learn to identify when they are suffering high levels of stress, anxiety, or anger on a regular basis and use coping mechanisms or ask for help before it’s too late.

“We have to work on empathy and values: learn from others and make children and young people relate to individuals from other races, countries, social or economic backgrounds. In Miami, everyone goes their own way, and we have to start changing that individualistic mentality to come together as a community,” concludes Ledezma.


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