WARNING SIGNS OF A REVENGE ATTACK 

KNOW WHAT TO DO TO SAVE LIVES!

Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

People may experience  grievances and anger from political, racial, economic, and personal wrongs and injustices. On top of this, the coronavirus pandemic is producing feelings of unfairness and victimization from shutdowns, loss of employment, disruptions to education and childcare, forced isolation, and widespread illness and loss of life.

These unprecedented levels of grievance are increasing the risk for revenge attacks in homes and communities across the United States, including homicide, domestic terrorism, intimate partner violence, and street and gang violence. Like heart attacks, revenge attacks should be treated as life-threatening medical emergencies. 

A revenge attack occurs when the desire to punish, retaliate, or seek revenge for real or imagined grievances or victimization overwhelms the brain’s ability to control violent behavior. Data and studies from the FBI, US Secret Service, CDC, and researchers around the world show that retaliation in response to grievances is the single most important cause of human aggression and violence and the primary motive for intimate partner violence, youth violence and bullying, street and gang violence, lone-actor attacks, police brutality and abuse of force, and terrorism. 

Recent neuroscience research reveals that harboring a grievance (a feeling of injustice or ill treatment) activates the same neural reward circuitry in the brain as narcotics. Grievances appear to trigger powerful cravings, like drug cravings, to inflict suffering upon perpetrators of perceived wrongs or their proxies to relieve the pain of the grievance and make us feel better through retaliation (as opposed to intoxication). 
 
Anybody can experience a revenge attack. Healthy, otherwise peaceful and law-abiding people may, in response to grievances or victimization, experience sudden, overwhelming desires to injure or kill others (even those they love) to get revenge and relieve pain.

When a revenge attack strikes, the person experiencing the revenge attack, the target of the revenge, and innocent bystanders are at risk of serious bodily injury or death, particularly if weapons and guns are present. Lives can be saved if people experiencing revenge attacks receive help before violence occurs. 

WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS OF A REVENGE ATTACK?


FBI and US Secret Service studies have identified the following pre-attack behaviors of people who have perpetrated retaliatory violence:


  • Preoccupation or obsession with a grievance or injustice (real or imagined)
  • Expressions of anger or rage over a grievance or injustice that get worse or do not go away
  • Talking or writing about getting revenge or payback 
  • Threats to hurt or kill others, especially the perceived source of the grievance or injustice
  • Acquiring or seeking access to weapons 
  • Identifying targets to hurt or kill, especially the source of the grievance or injustice (targets may include individuals, groups or types of people, such as by race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, families/friends, and gangs)
  • Preparations to hurt or kill (training/practicing with weapons; acquiring or stockpiling ammunition, body armor, tactical gear; conducting surveillance of targets or locations)
  • Planning to hurt or kill, especially the perceived source of the grievance or injustice, including date, time, location, transportation, and site access


WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU OR SOMEONE ELSE MAY BE EXPERIENCING A REVENGE ATTACK?


  • Act quickly; do not hesitate. Treat the warning signs of a revenge attack as a life-threatening emergency
  • Remove weapons and guns if it is safe to do so
  • If you may be the target of a revenge attack, go to a safe location immediately; if others may be at risk, warn them to seek safe shelter
  • Call for help – dial 911, the National Crisis Hotline (1-800-273-8255), or the FBI tip line (1-800-255-5324); or go to the nearest hospital emergency room or police station
  • If violence is not imminent, seek support or resources to help control revenge desires by accessing the resources on this website or consulting a trusted friend, counselor, or mental health professional


The experience of unfairness and mistreatment is a common part of life. It may not be possible to prevent or eliminate all forms of grievance, but you can do something to help reduce the cravings to retaliate triggered by those grievances and that lead to violence. The life you save might be your own or the life of someone you love.