Threatening Communication and Violent Actions: Discussion and Results
Our research had some important questions that were related of escalation or de-escalation of threats. This means we wanted to find out if a person making the threat would actually carry out that act i.e. escalate the threat to violent action. Our research and literature review reveals that escalation or de-escalation is dependent on many factors including whether or not a person has done similar things before.
Language is considered threatening if subjects expressed a “described a desire to harm or have harm occur to the target in either a direct or veiled fashion.”
Every day many individuals or corporations face threats of various kinds. They can be in the form of threatening phone calls, emails, written communication or face-to-face threats. However not all threats leads to dangerous actions but it has been noted that most violent actions are preceded by violent and harsh threats. It is thus important to assess the risk of violent action emerging from verbal or written threats. Threats can be a preceding factor in many kinds of crimes from copyright infringement to homicide.
There are five levels of escalation within a conflict that later involves threatening language. Level 1 is when the two parties first become aware of conflict and each is seeking a solution. Level II is where common ground exists but each party begins viewing their interest as more important. Level III is where common ground is lost and discussion is replaced by thoughts of concrete threatening action. Level IV is when immaturity and irrationality take over every ration thought. Violent action is highly prominent. Level V is when conflict gains mythical degree of violence.
It is important to make highly accurate assessments in this connection because protection of the target can prove to be very costly and hence law enforcement wouldn’t want to waste its resources on empty threats. With more and more research being targeted on the link between violent language and subsequent violent actions, behavioral science professionals and law enforcement are using this research to identify risk potential in cases of threat.
The discussion of the link between threatening communication and subsequent violent action is relevant because it helps in identifying the degree to which examination of threatening language can help explain or predict future occurrence of violent action against the target. In many cases of threat, communication from the perpetrator is often the only piece of information available against the offender and for this reason, researchers are now trying to figure out if communication can reveal offender’s psycho-pathy and the degree to which he/she can be dangerous to the target. Our research shows that some physiological reactions during the threat giving incident would also say a great deal about escalation or possible de-escalation. A person who stays calm during threat-giving is more capable of actually carrying out a violent action or whatever he threatens to do compare to someone who shouts and looks nervous. The more a person shouts and expresses anger; the lower is the risk of escalation.
However this is not enough to make a final conclusion because there are other factors impacting the decision. The person being threatened can also play a role in diffusing the situation by responding kindly or adequately in whatever is the best possible manner. Some people would respond to a threat with a threat of their own and that can also work provided the person takes the target seriously and considers him or her capable of acting out their counter-threats.
It is also theorized that if a threat is too be analyzed, the end impact of the threat on the offender must be studied. Whether the threat would escalate to violence or not is determined also by how the violent action would actually benefit the offender. If it is felt that offender would be better off carrying out a violent act and hence acting on his threat, there is likelihood that he would make an attempt.
It was found that while offenders were likely to leave threatening communication in cases where private or public targets are involved but the method and channel of the communication would be different. In the case of public targets, communication would usually be indirect compared to private targets. Hence we need to understand that while threatening communication may lead to violent actions, there are some other factors that must be studies such as how public or private the target is, what is the channel of communication, how well the offender knows the victim etc.
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