Oct 6, 2022 - News

Reducing violence by teaching conflict resolution

Illustration of a speech bubble with cutouts to look like a peace sign.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

An Atlanta nonprofit wants to prevent disagreements from escalating to gunfire by teaching people how to stop violence before it begins.

Why it matters: Reducing violence requires a multi-pronged approach. Conflict and trauma resolution is one strategy, and groups like CHRIS 180 are trying to teach people how to keep cool before pulling a gun.

Catch up quick: In the summer of 2020, CHRIS 180 staffers expanded their focus in Mechanicsville and five other southwest Atlanta neighborhoods and partnered with residents to create Cure Violence Atlanta.

  • Based on a program that originated in Chicago, the conflict-resolution initiative has served more than 2,000 people. More than 40 people who have signed up to be “violence interrupters” have mediated over 80 conflicts.

How it works: The program views gun violence as a public health issue. Like a virus, one act can spread and reverberate throughout a community. By working conflict resolution with residents, the CHRIS 180 team can help prevent violence from taking root.

Yes, and: After a shooting or high-profile incident like a house fire causes stress or tension in the neighborhoods, a CHRIS 180 trauma response team helps the victims and community process the event and break the cycle from repeating.

  • Those solutions have included healing circles, counseling, peace walks or mindfulness activities like yoga and tai-chi.

The key, says program manager Aaron Johnson, is trust: "Change moves at the speed of trust. It's about consistency, showing up, and being authentic. People know when you're being honest, true and real."

Yes, but: Conflict resolution takes time, money and patience from the community and elected officials.

  • "There are no immediate changes," says Janikqua Cutno, CHRIS 180's director of community initiatives in southwest Atlanta. "What works in one city might not work in this city. Same on the community-by-community level."

What's next: Starting next year, CHRIS 180 says, the program will partner with the city's Office of Violence Reduction and expand to communities on the Westside and in southwest Atlanta.


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