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  Avila hosts Violence Prevention Panel  
  Kansas City, MO    
April 28, 2010

Deborah Johnson, assistant professor of sociology and director of the criminology and justice studies program at Avila University’s Department of Law and Justice Studies, said she experienced something unprecedented following a violence prevention panel discussion she led last fall.

“At the end of that session,” Johnson said, “it was the first time I’d experienced a panel wanting to continue because the discussion was so good.

“It was a topic that needed to be further discussed.”

That happened when Johnson reconvened her group of experts for “The Violence Prevention Panel II,” held April 26 in Whitfield Center. A diverse group of experts, which included a major from the Kansas City Metropolitan Police Department, a Kansas state senator, an educator from a Kansas City-area youth advocacy organization and pastor of a Chillicothe, Mo. Church, spent nearly two hours discussing the causes and trends of violence in the area and what can – and should – be done to curb it.

A panel of experts convened April 26 at Avila University to discuss violence in society and its related causes, effects and solutions. Pictured from left: Lisa Martin, community liaison, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault; Scott Mason, violence prevention educator, Rose Brooks Center; Kristy Childs, executive director & founder, Veronica’s Voice; Deborah Johnson, assistant professor of sociology and director of the criminology and justice studies program within Avila’s Department of Law and Justice Studies; Peter Uwaeke, owner and director of the Galaxy Home for Children; Major Anthony Ell, commander, East Patrol Division, Kansas City Metropolitan Police Department; Regina Staves, assistant professor of psychology, Avila; Kansas Senator Tim Owens (R), chair of the senate judiciary committee; Andrea Olitsky, assistant professor of political science, pre-law advisor and mock trial director at Avila; and Ndubueze Michael Diochi, associate pastor at St. Columban’s Parish, Chillicothe, Mo.


“The way I see it, unless there’s any significant intervention, it’ll keep going the way it has been,” said Regina Staves, assistant professor of psychology at Avila.

Anthony Ell, a major and commander with the East Patrol Division of the Kansas City Metropolitan Police Department, said prevention of violence starts with education.

“Police know they can’t arrest their way out of a problem,” Ell said. “Education is key.”

Ell pointed to recent trends in domestic violence and law enforcement’s efforts to become educated in identifying high-risk situations and a protocol for handling those situations.

“It’s being proactive instead of reactive,” he said.

Lisa Martin, community liaison with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, said people would probably see a rise in the report of domestic violence cases in the near future … and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“There’s still a lot of awareness we’re working on,” Martin said. “A lot of victims don’t recognize the abuse. We’re going to see an increase as more awareness is out there.”

Kansas Senator Tim Owens (R) warned that the public needs to come to the realization that reducing violence, in the end, is going to cost money and that money will have to come from taxpayers.

“One of the things that concerns me is that many of the various issues we’re talking about are getting cut (from state budgets),” he said. “The state of Kansas closed four prisons last year. I have a major concern that that’s the direction we’re going.

“Unless we as a society are willing to pay for these issues … . People have to come to the realization that if you’re going to deal with the problem, we’re going to have to pay for it. And that usually comes in the form of higher taxes.”

The panel, prompted by a question from Avila President Ron Slepitza, also discussed the desensitization of today’s youth to violence because of video games and devices and reality TV. They took questions from the audience, which more often than not led to more detailed, specific discussions of the roots of unrest. It all added up to an informative, stimulating discussion of a topic of great interest and concern, particularly to Johnson’s law and justice students.

Whether there will be a “Violence Prevention Panel III” remains to be seen, Johnson said. But she plans on doing something similar for upcoming classes she’ll be teaching in criminal profiling and corrections.

“I was thrilled with how it came out,” she said. “It was an outstanding panel. There was a great mix of backgrounds and expertise, and they did a great job of integrating their responses.

“It was an integrated view of violence in society and an excellent experiential learning process for the students.”


About Avila University
Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.