VIOLENCE

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VIOLENCE

Why does such a broad topic like Violence need to be addressed?    Why should we as a society as a whole care or get involved with helping to curb this epidemic?    Are the statistics that we hear about in studies or reported by the authorities accurate or are they inflated?   Are the Victims of any violent act (domestic violence, child abuse, etc.) truly healed or does it stay with them in some fashion?  How can we properly break the cycle of Violence?

I realize that with a hot topic (all forms of violence) as this, it’s always in the media on a daily basis, unfortunately there are many people that just turn a blind eye to this epidemic and refuse to get involved in any way and continually make the claim, “it’s not my problem, let someone else handle it.”  To those people I would venture to say you would be singing a different tune if the shoe was on the other foot and something that I have written about happens to you or someone in your family.      While this is in no means complete, I hope that I have given a better insight into some of the complexities of this problem.  There is so much valuable and important information that I have that it all would fit perfectly in a chapter in my book.  Violence cannot be attributed to a single factor. Its causes are complex and occur at different levels.  And how to put an end to the problem is as equally as complex.  There is no quick fix.  I have also noticed that many victims feel that what has happened to them is their fault, and this is not true at all.  It has been said that Violence begets Violence.   I think that this is certainly a possibility.

Violence is “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” This definition associate’s intentionality with the committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces. Generally, although, anything that is turbulent or excited in an injurious, damaging or destructive way, or presenting risk accordingly, may be described as violent or occurring violently, even if not signifying violence (by a person and against a person).

Globally, violence takes the lives of more than 1.5 million people annually: just over 50% due to suicide, some 35% due to homicide, and just over 12% as a direct result of war or some other form of conflict. For each single death due to violence, there are dozens of hospitalizations, hundreds of emergency department visits, and thousands of doctors’ appointments.   Furthermore, violence often has lifelong consequences for victims’ physical and mental health and social functioning and can slow economic and social development.  Violence in many forms is preventable. Evidence shows strong relationships between levels of violence and potentially modifiable factors such as concentrated poverty, income and gender inequality, the harmful use of alcohol, and the absence of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and parents.  It has been shown that possibly using some strategies that address the underlying causes of violence can be effective in preventing violence in the long term.

The nature of violent acts could be classified as:  physical, sexual, psychological and involving deprivation or neglect.   I have found that self-directed violence can be split between suicidal behavior and self-abuse.  The first part would include suicidal thoughts, or deliberate self-injury in some countries including suicide.  In contrast, self-abuse includes acts such as self-mutilation. 

Collective violence that is committed to advance a particular social agenda includes, for example, crimes of hate committed by organized groups, terrorist acts and mob violence. Economic violence includes attacks by larger groups motivated by economic gain – such as attacks carried out with the purpose of disrupting economic activity, denying access to essential services, or creating economic division and fragmentation. Clearly, acts committed by larger groups can have multiple motives.   This typology, while imperfect and far from being universally accepted, does provide a useful framework for understanding the complex patterns of violence taking place around the world, as well as violence in the everyday lives of individuals, families and communities. It also overcomes many of the limitations of other typologies by capturing the nature of violent acts, the relevance of the setting, the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, and – in the case of collective violence – possible motivations for the violence. However, in both research and practice, the dividing lines between the different types of violence are not always so clear.

Violence includes those acts that result from a power relationship, including threats and intimidation, neglect or acts of omission, in addition to more obvious violent acts (domestic violence, etc.). Violence has a broad range of outcomes – including psychological harm, deprivation and maldevelopment. Violence that does not necessarily result in injury or death, but nonetheless poses a substantial burden on individuals, families, communities and health care systems worldwide. Many forms of violence against women, children and the elderly, for instance, can result in physical, psychological and social problems that do not necessarily lead to injury, disability or death. These consequences can be immediate, as well as latent, and can last for years after the initial abuse. Defining outcomes solely in terms of injury or death thus limits the understanding of the full impact of violence.  Interpersonal violence is divided into two subcategories: Family and intimate partner violence – that is, violence largely between family members and intimate partners, usually, though not exclusively, taking place in the home. Community violence – violence between individuals who are unrelated, and who may or may not know each other, generally taking place outside the home. The former group includes forms of violence such as child abuse, intimate partner violence and abuse of the elderly. The latter includes youth violence, random acts of violence, rape or sexual assault by strangers, and violence in institutional settings such as schools, workplaces, prisons and nursing homes.

Child maltreatment is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Exposure to intimate partner violence is also sometimes included as a form of child maltreatment.  Child maltreatment is a global problem with serious lifelong consequences, which is, however, complex and difficult to study. There are no reliable global estimates for the prevalence of child maltreatment. Data for many countries, especially low- and middle-income countries, are lacking. Consequences of child maltreatment include impaired lifelong physical and mental health, and social and occupational functioning (e.g. school, job, and relationship difficulties). These can ultimately slow a country’s economic and social development. Preventing child maltreatment before it starts I think is possible. Effective prevention programmes support parents and teach positive parenting skills. Ongoing care of children and families can reduce the risk of maltreatment reoccurring and can minimize its consequences.

Intimate partner violence refers to behavior in an intimate relationship that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.  Intimate partner and sexual violence have serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for victims and for their children, and lead to high social and economic costs. These include both fatal and non-fatal injuries, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.     A possible strategy to aid as being effective for intimate partner violence is school-based programming for adolescents to prevent violence within dating relationships.  Other evidence is emerging to help are those that: combine microfinance with gender equality training; promote communication and relationship skills within communities; reduce access to and the harmful use of alcohol; and change cultural gender norms.    Sexual violence is any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. It includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object.   Sexual violence has serious short- and long-term consequences on physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health for victims and for their children as described in the section on intimate partner violence. If perpetrated during childhood, sexual violence can lead to increased smoking, drug and alcohol misuse, and risky sexual behaviors in later life. It is also associated with perpetration of violence and being a victim of violence.   Many of the risk factors for sexual violence are the same as for domestic violence. Risk factors specific to sexual violence perpetration include beliefs in family honour and sexual purity, ideologies of male sexual entitlement and weak legal sanctions for sexual violence.  To achieve lasting change, it is important to enact legislation and develop policies that protect women; address discrimination against women and promote gender equality; and help to move the culture away from violence.

Elder maltreatment is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect and serious loss of dignity and respect.  However, older people are often afraid to report cases of maltreatment to family, friends, or even the authorities. Data on the extent of the problem in institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are scarce. Elder maltreatment can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences. Elder maltreatment is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations.  But many strategies implemented to prevent these things from happening are not so well-established.

The threat and enforcement of physical punishment has been a tried and tested method of preventing some violence since civilization began. It is used in various degrees in most countries.  The most significant factor for reducing violence in a society is the guidance and discipline of children as they mature. The effectiveness of physical punishment at this level is much debated, but if it is used, it should be as a last resort and never done in anger.   Evidence shows that life skills acquired in social development programmes can reduce involvement in violence, improve social skills, boost educational achievement and improve job prospects. Life skills refer to social, emotional, and behavioural competencies which help children and adolescents effectively deal with the challenges of everyday life.    The criminal justice approach, beyond justice and punishment, has traditionally emphasized indicated interventions, aimed at those who have already been involved in violence, either as victims or as perpetrators. One of the main reasons offenders are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted is to prevent further crimes – through deterrence (threatening potential offenders with criminal sanctions if they commit crimes), incapacitation (physically preventing offenders from committing further crimes by locking them up) and through rehabilitation (using time spent under state supervision to develop skills or change one’s psychological make-up to reduce the likelihood of future offences).   In recent decades in many countries in the world, the criminal justice system has taken an increasing interest in preventing violence before it occurs.  The Juvenile justice systems – an important component of criminal justice systems – are largely based on the belief in rehabilitation and prevention. In the US, the criminal justice system has, for instance, funded school- and community-based initiatives to reduce children’s access to guns and teach conflict resolution.   Are they effective?

In countries with high levels of violence, economic growth can be slowed down, personal and collective security eroded, and social development impeded. Families edging out of poverty and investing in schooling their sons and daughters can be ruined through the violent death or severe disability of the main breadwinner. Communities can be caught in poverty traps where pervasive violence and deprivation form a vicious circle that stifles economic growth. For societies, meeting the direct costs of health, criminal justice, and social welfare responses to violence diverts many billions of dollars from more constructive societal spending. The much larger indirect costs of violence due to lost productivity and lost investment in education work together to slow economic development, increase socioeconomic inequality, and erode human and social capital.   Additionally, communities with high level of violence do not always provide the level of stability and predictability vital for a prospering business economy. Individuals are less likely to invest money and effort towards growth in such unstable and violent conditions.

Religious and political ideologies have been the cause of interpersonal violence throughout history. Ideologues often falsely accuse others of violence, such as the ancient blood libel against Jews, the medieval accusations of casting witchcraft spells against women, caricatures of black men as “violent brutes” that helped excuse the late 19th century Jim Crow laws in the United States, and modern accusations of satanic ritual abuse against day care center owners and others.

Throughout history, most religions and individuals like Mahatma Gandhi have preached that humans are capable of eliminating individual violence and organizing societies through purely non-violent means. Gandhi himself once wrote: “A society organized and run on the basis of complete non-violence would be the purest anarchy.”  Modern political ideologies which espouse similar views include pacifist varieties of voluntarism, mutualism, anarchism and libertarianism.

 Kathy Kiefer

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