Reflections on Violence: Correlates, Constructions, and Consequences

Co-Sponsored by the Faculty Social Action Committee
January 31, 2014
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
The Parlor Room
NYU Silver School of Social Work
New York, NY 10003

keynote presentation

James Gilligan is a psychiatrist who has studied the causes and prevention of violence, first at the Harvard Medical School and now at NYU, in the prisons of Massachusetts and the jails of San Francisco and New York. He is the author of Violence: Reflections on our Deadliest Epidemic, Preventing Violence, and Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others. He has served as a consultant on crime, punishment and violence prevention to President Clinton, Tony Blair, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Court, the World Economic Forum, the Agency for International Development, and other leaders and institutions. He and his work have been awarded annual and lifetime achievement awards from Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Dr. Gilligan has concluded that violence is always a desperate and risky attempt to gain respect, attention, and recognition for oneself or for the group with which one identifies. This theory is able to explain a whole range of violent behaviors, from individual (homicide and suicide) to collective (war, terrorism, and genocide) and enables doctors to devise and test practical methods to prevent violence. Through his work among the most violent people our society produces - in prisons and in prison mental hospitals - he has become one of the leading exponents of shifting our emphasis from punishing violence after it occurs to preventing it before it happens.

Panel presentations

Kathy Boudin is Director of the Criminal Justice Initiative: Supporting Children, Families and Communities, based at the Columbia University School of Social Work, where she is also an adjunct professor. Boudin also works with the Spencer Cox Center for Health, St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital, where she is the founding director of the Coming Home Program, addressing the health needs of people returning from prison and jail. In the 1960’s, Boudin was active in civil rights, antiwar, and international justice movements. She served 22 years in prison beginning in 1981 where she worked with other women in prison creating national model programs in the areas of HIV/AIDS, parenting, and higher education in prison. Today, people who have been formerly incarcerated play an essential role in the work she is involved in. (for a longer bio, please visit:

Carolyn Strudwick is the Associate Vice President for Safe Horizon’s Youth and Anti-Trafficking Program. In this role she oversees Safe Horizon’s Streetwork Project homeless youth drop-in centers and shelter programs for youth and Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Program. Ms. Strudwick began her career in social services at Safe Horizon in 1993 as an Outreach Worker and Case Manager at the Streetwork Program. During her 17 year tenure with the program, she has worked with street-involved youth in many capacities including group facilitator, clinical case manager and shelter supervisor. She also served in the role of Senior Director managing programmatic functions and contributing to ongoing program developments. Ms. Strudwick received her masters in Social Work from Hunter College School of Social Work of the City University of New York in 2007. She is a seasoned and leading expert among youth providers in New York City.


Violence is deeply imbedded in American culture. For social workers and allied mental health practitioners, interpersonal violence receives the most attention, but it is just one form of violence; structural, cultural, and legislative policies that legitimate violence in the name of justice have been institutionalized in American life perpetuating cycles of harm rather than healing. What then are the correlates that tie personal violence and institutional violence together? How is violence constructed in American culture? What and how can we come to understand the individual who commits a violent act, in terms of their psychological and social condition? How does the system impact the individual once they have become a part of it? What is the role of guilt and shame in violent acts and how is this experienced? Finally, what role can social workers play in helping to prevent violence and work to help those who have acted with violence as well as those who have experienced violence?

Learning Goals

  • Understanding of the construction of violence, as well as its role, in American culture, including the various forms of violence that exist beyond the interpersonal;
  • Sensitivity to violence at the different levels of human interaction (from the personal to the societal and systemic levels) and what the consequences at those levels entail;
  • Insight into actual, lived experiences; and
  • Enriched knowledge as to how social workers can help to prevent violence and work with those who have been the subject of violence.