Opinion article* published in The Conversation written by Professor Philip Dwyer, Director of the Centre for the History of Violence, School of Humanities and Social Science at University of Newcastle.

There is a growing consensus among scholars that rates of violence in Western countries are steadily declining, and have been doing so for centuries.

The statistic used by most people who support this view is homicide rates. They have dropped dramatically from 100 for every 100,000 people in the 13th century, to ten in 100,000 by the middle of the 17th century (although it was that high in the United States only a few years ago) to rates of around one in 100,000 people in most Western countries today.

The argument that we are now a less violent world is compelling, but it raises more questions than it provides answers. In Australia, while murder rates have been steady for decades, assaults are on the rise – from 623 per 100,000 in 1996 to 840 per 100,000 in 2007. More young women are appearing before the courts than ever before for violent offences, and domestic violence has seen a resurgence despite the media awareness surrounding the issue.

In NSW, the problem of street violence has been brought to the fore recently by a number of high profile cases in the media. Young men who have either been killed (in the case of Thomas Kelly, who was fatally punched in Sydney’s Kings Cross in July 2012) or put into comas after being “king hit”, illustrate the extent to which street violence is prevalent in some areas in Australia’s major urban centres.

The statistics tell us about the immediate causes of the violence, but very little about the mindset of the young perpetrators, usually men, and why they ultimately become violent.

Read the full article in The Conversation.
* Opinion pieces represent the author’s views.