By Sandra Kaltoum
It is becoming more and more apparent that the level of youth violence is increasing. Statistics show that 51 per cent of males aged between 15 and 24 have been assaulted,
and female youth violence is also on the rise. Research conducted by the Luke Adams Foundation in Australia showed that the main causes of this notable increase are the influences of alcohol and drugs, low self-esteem, peer pressure, poor communication skills, over-developed sense of ownership or control and retaliation.
Many of these factors that have been identified are very commonly accepted, reported on and generally receive extensive media attention. One of these triggers, however, appears to receive less social recognition: the increased sense of ownership and control among youth. This appears to be a key social deformity that has had substantial negative effects on youth and their development. We are becoming less conscious of the boundaries between ourselves and the people we love. It seems as though young people now, through decreased respect for the dignity of their peers, are thinking of all those they are in relationships with as extensions of themselves.
Perhaps this increase in youth violence and the need to be possessive can also be linked to the changing nature of relationships today. It seems the "hook-up" culture is more accepted than it ever has been. This culture encourages short term physical gratification, without a long term commitment, leading to the objectification of people. There have been numerous studies that highlight that sexual assault at university campuses is clearly on the rise. There are strong correlations between the nature of relationships people enter into and what is considered acceptable in their relationships. It does not seem too much of a stretch to acknowledge that the more we move away from meaningful and long-lasting commitments towards self-centred “love”, the more likely it is we will start to view people as disposable. This culture may promote violence. Is it too difficult to imagine that as respect decreases violence increases?
Young people are being exposed to many negative societal influences.Pornography is a clear example of the societal focus on physical satisfaction that is often unrecognised as a cause of social harm. There have been numerous studies conducted about the effects of pornography on its observers. The Witherspoon Institute reporting on a 2010 conference titled “The Social Costs of Pornography”found that “every second, there are approximately 28,258 users viewing pornography.”The Witherspoon Report quoted an Australian study of 101 sexually abusive children in Australia that showed increased aggressiveness in boys who used pornography. There is no denying the addictiveness of pornography. The Witherspoon report stated that many users of pornography display the psychological qualities of addiction. The consequences of this addiction are devastating socially because, as Patrick Boyden writes, “porn takes something mesmerisingly beautiful — human sexuality — and exploits it.”
A youth culture focussed on pleasing the self, rather than empathising with those around us, is likely to lead to greater youth violence and a degradation of morality. Many social factors influence people’s perception of the opposite sex and, when respect is removed as a focus, these factors can often introduce an exploitative element to sexual relationships. This exploitative element can either break down the relationship completely, as evidenced by the Witherspoon Report that linked pornography and divorce, or it may lead to one partner accepting an undesirable situation.
A possessive culture is never beneficial. It is essential that we give young people a supportive and respectful environment, free from the negative influences that are pervading society. Hopefully the controlling nature of youth violence, a rarely commented on issue, can be addressed further and the factors that contribute to a violent culture can be further explored and eventually changed.