James A. Little Theater
Community Event

Why We Kill: Violence as Socialization

Acts of serious violence – often committed by seemingly average people – leave us only to ask “Why?” Culture, genetics, and low self-esteem are often cited, but growing evidence points to brutalization experienced in childhood, often at the hands of parents or peers. Ginger Rhodes and Richard Rhodes explore the work of criminologist Lonnie Athens, whose "violentization" model identifies a four-stage process by which almost any human being can be socialized into someone who will assault, rape, or murder. Their talk looks at the history of violence, questions the association of violence with mental illness, tests Athens’ theory on real-life cases, and makes an argument for early intervention.

Richard Rhodes is the author of twenty-five books including The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award; Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, which was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize in History; an investigation of the roots of private violence, Why They Kill; and, most recently, a narrative of the Spanish Civil War, That Fine Place. He has received numerous fellowships for research and writing, including grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT and a host and correspondent for documentaries on American public television.


Dr. Ginger Rhodes is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco specializing in trauma treatment. In addition to psychotherapy, her practice includes psychological evaluation of trauma survivors seeking political asylum in the United States and the teaching and supervision of psychotherapy interns with the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. She received her PhD from the University of Connecticut where her research focused on understanding violence. Dr. Rhodes has presented workshops and papers on violence and trauma treatment both in the United States and abroad. Prior to becoming a psychologist Dr. Rhodes was a journalist and producer for a public radio affiliate. She also shared many years of experience in writing and editing with her husband, the writer Richard Rhodes. They co-edited the book Trying To Get Some Dignity: Stories of Triumph Over Childhood Abuse (William Morrow, 1996).

SFI’s 2014 Community Lecture series is generously sponsored by Thornburg Investment Management

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