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Learning the Scary Truth As You Age-Those Closest to Us Are More Dangerous Than Strangers

Boy sitting on his desk while reading his book.

Stranger danger has become a phrase we all are associated with from childhood.

           It’s meant to warn children of the potential threat of associating with unknown adults. As we get older, the wariness of individuals who are unfamiliar to us remains. Combining our DNA and experiences has given us an automatic healthy suspicion of strangers.

           However, much of the current data suggests we should also add “our people” to the skepticism list.

           In 2019, 74% percent of all violent and non-violent crimes happened between individuals who knew each other before the incident (UCJ,2019). Excluding non-violent crimes committed, non-strangers were still responsible for a significant percentage (UCJ, 2019).

           For instance, non-strangers were responsible for 41% of the murders in 2019. (UCJ,2019).

           While these are extreme examples, most targets of people’s anger are those who they contact regularly-individuals’ romantic partners, friends, family members, and coworkers have the highest probability of being victims of their aggression (Richardson & Green, 2006).

           It’s critical to make a distinction between aggression versus violent crimes.

           According to Baron & Richardson (1994), aggression was defined as “any behavior directed toward the goal of harming another living being” (p. 7). Richardson (2014) breaks down 4 vital points about the nature of aggression being addressed:

  1. Aggression is a behavior, not a thought, idea, or attitude (in contrast to , e.g., hostility or anger).
  2. Aggression is intentional. Accidental harm or harm done in order to help someone (e.g., a nurse giving a shot-a dentist drilling a tooth) would not qualify as aggression.
  3. Aggression involves an intention to harm, and that harm may take various forms, as described below.
  4. Aggression is directed toward a living being. Breaking a plate or throwing a chair to express general annoyance would not be aggression. Trying to hurt your mother by breaking her prized antique plate or throwing a chair at your friend in hopes of hurting him would be considered aggression.

            There is also a difference between styles of aggression.

           The direct method of aggression includes confronting another person by yelling or hitting. An indirect version of aggressive behavior entails attempting to harm someone by spreading false rumors or damaging property (Richardson, 2014).

           As it relates to gender regarding who partakes in what style of aggression more often, it’s important to note were more alike than dissimilar.

           While men may use direct means of aggression more often than females, there was no difference between the two groups in their self-reporting of indirect aggression (Green, Richardson & Lago, 1996; Warren et al., 2011)

           What does this all mean?

           The sad truth about this topic is we must keep an eye open even amongst trusted folks. I’m sure many of us have already experienced deep betrayal by so-called “allies.”

           We have to remember just because people mimic our views does not necessarily mean they share the same values. It can all be a ruse.

           Now, I do admit horrible things happen at the hands of strangers. Too many examples in the national zeitgeist show we have a right to exude a solid apprehension to those we don’t know.

           However, as I previously stated, being aware of strangers is ingrained in our psyche.

           Our society offers less dialogue on noticing the signs of ill intent from those you know. The Shaquille Robinson story is an example of the danger that exists when individuals are around you who do not have your best interest at heart.

           A crucial aspect of behaving appropriately requires us to recognize our aggressive tendencies and keep them on a leash.

           It’s probably impossible to get every interaction with those we love correct. We should make our best effort not to take the people in our lives for granted. As adults, we are responsible for representing ourselves as civil people.

           Especially regarding people, we engage with frequently.

           If we display inappropriate conduct, then coming back and apologizing for the behavior makes sense. Also, taking the proper steps to make sure future events are as respectful as possible shows your maturity around the issue.

           So many articles on medium speak about being victims of a situation. While empowering survivors is highly critical. It’s valuable to realize that we are the perpetrators sometimes in life.           

            Acknowledging such a reality might feel shameful, but it reinforces our shared humanity.

            None of us will live a perfect existence; our only hope is to improve our circumstances. Developing into our best selves means avoiding destructive human beings and not becoming hateful in relationships.

           Ultimately, all of us can become a danger to ourselves or others. Those who don’t admit or know it are the most alarming.

           What do you think about the article?

           What are the signs in people that are red flags to you?

           How do you keep your own aggressive tendencies on a leash?

Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services! Click HERE to Request a Complimentary Habit Coaching Session!


Baron, R. A., & Richardson, D. R. (1994). Human aggression. New York, NY: Plenum

Green, L., Richardson, D. R., & Lago, T. (1996). Social network density and aggression: How do friendship, gossip, and aggression relate? Aggressive Behavior22, 81–86.

Richardson, D.S. & Green, L. R. (2006). Direct and Indirect Aggression: Relationships as social context. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2006, 2492-2508.

Richardson, D.S (2014). Everyday aggression takes many forms. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(3), 220-224.

U.S. Department of Justice (UCJ)-Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2019) National Incident-Based Reporting System.

Warren, P., Richardson, D. S., & McQuillin, S. (2011). Distinguishing among nondirect forms of aggression. Aggressive Behavior37, 291–301.

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