Social workers typically work with victims, but if we’re going to prevent any kind of violence, we really need to focus on the offenders. If the ultimate goal is to eliminate or reduce violence against families and women, we have to stop dehumanizing offenders, and therapeutically recognize their own histories of victimization and adversity that led them to violence and crime.
We’re in a period of reform in the juvenile justice system in response to the increased understanding of the neurobiological development of adolescents. I’m considering specifically the history of adversity and traumas that the youth who become court-involved bring to bear and the heterogeneity of those histories. The goal with this is to underscore the fact that the victims and the offenders are the same people: a punitive approach is not going to be helpful for these youth. We have to be conscious of their diverse needs as they’re being mandated into treatment or experiencing probation requirements.