PAC Forms Plan to Stop "Normalisation of Violence"
Young people from Merseyside claim that apathy and hopelessness leads to the violence 90% of them have seen.
They also believe empathy and a switch away from punishment to education would prevent hatred and abuse from becoming “normalised” on Merseyside.
So says a new study by young people in the region that has been labelled “an extraordinary achievement” by the Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership (MVRP) and the Young Person’s Advisory Service (YPAS).
Compiled over two years by the Peer Action Collective (PAC) “Youth Violence and Us” draws a depressing link between a young person’s race, gender and sexuality and their chances of becoming a victim of violence. It also explores how early exposure to abuse at home and a lack of trust in adults can exacerbate problems.
But the report also praises efforts to engage with teenagers at school, supports sports and other activities designed to beat boredom, and salutes a regional commitment to reduce violence against women and girls.
It also portrays a real sense of pride in Merseyside, with one contributor commenting: “People think that Liverpool itself is not a nice place, it is an amazing place and as much as I did struggle growing up, I think I still had a good life.”
Meeting three times a week and collaborating closely with academics and specialists to adopt the highest standards of balance and effectiveness in their study, the PAC team quizzed 338 young people either in person, online, or at focus groups.
- Young women felt they had to adopt preventative measures such as covering their glass up so their drink wouldn’t get spiked, when they went out
- Young people felt that those who were racist, homophobic, or misogynistic often thought their behaviour was harmless banter
- Respondents from the LBGT community sometimes didn’t want to report abuse to their parents because they felt that they were homophobic too
- Anxiousness around violence promoted other mental health issues with one respondent saying: “In Liverpool you have to think about anything and everything that could happen while you're out.”
Feelings of hopelessness were expressed by some of the respondents. This was particularly the case in more disadvantaged areas with young people believing that a lack of purpose meant they were more easily groomed by gangs, saw fighting as essential and had little compunction about carrying a knife.
As the report itself concluded: “A feeling of vulnerability suggests a need and a desire to survive, rather than live their lives fully as young people, trusting of adults around them and unafraid.”
Barriers to improvement, included the closure of youth clubs, a lack of information on mental health services for young people, and a mistrust of the authorities based on past experience and the toxic views of others around them. Respondents longed for more activities and protection in public places such as parks where young people congregated, stating that adults and young children had plenty of opportunities, whilst they had none.