Thomas Greenfield, M.REd., M.Ed., LPC, LADC
How would you define violence? Most people believe violence is the extreme physical force of uncontrolled anger. Many believe violence is primarily associated with severe fights resulting in injury or death. Many in our society have a limited view of violence. It’s not surprising. Even Webster’s Dictionary defines violence as the exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse. While, in the true sense of the word, violence encompasses such views, it is important to understand violence is so much more.
Does violence always involve physical altercation? Mahatma Gandhi, historic leader of the nationalistic liberation movement in India, devoted his life to using non-violent methods to achieve freedom from British rule. He inspired civil rights and freedom world-wide until his death in 1948. Gandhi is quoted as saying, “Any attempt to impose your will on another human being is an act of violence.” No physical force. No bodily injury. No fights or aggression.
This definition opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It simply means that, when it comes to equal human relationships at work, in marriages, with peers etc., violence is the act of forcing one’s will on another person. Violence therefore becomes a means to control. Certainly there are situations where, in order to live in a peaceful and healthy society, control is necessary. Those in authority roles, such as law enforcement, employers, school teachers and parents have the societal right to impose their will on other human beings (within legal parameters of course). However, violence or unhealthy control involves the imposition of one’s will on another within the context of equal relationships.
A type of violence most often seen, or perhaps not seen, is domestic violence. According to a publication of the National Coalition of Domestic Violence ( HYPERLINK "http://www.ncadv.org" www.ncadv.org), domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. This publication also reveals the following alarming statistics: One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime; an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year; females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence; almost one-third of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner; most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police. Domestic violence is clearly not seen. It’s the hidden crime.
What are some indicators of domestic violence? Besides the obvious signs of physical assault, how can someone know that domestic violence exists? To answer these questions, one only has to examine how control is achieved. Anger is not always an accurate indicator because violence is not about anger, it’s about control. While anger is usually involved, it is used as a necessary means to control the victim.
A perpetrator of domestic violence will use force in varying degrees to achieve control. It may start with raising the voice and escalate to screaming, profanity, calling names and public embarrassment. If these means are not sufficient to control the victim, the abuser may use isolation, keeping the victim from friends and family. He may also become restrictive by standing in the victim’s way so she cannot leave the room. If these means are not effective, he may throw an item across the room or even at the victim. He may resort to hitting a wall or door. The controller may even jab his finger into the chest, grab her arm, shove her down or strike her. Of course, serious injury or even death is often the tragic result.
He will use whatever means necessary instill fear so as to control what she does, where she goes and who she goes with. Eventually, she “gets the point” and “learns her lesson.” The next time control is necessary, after she is sufficiently gripped with fear, it only takes a stern look or stare to control her. She then submits without altercation or physical force. Consider that even the look itself is an act of violence.
You see, domestic violence involves far more than physical altercations. It involves verbal, emotional and mental abuse as well, all intended to control the victim. Coercion, threats, intimidation, put downs, isolation and male privilege, are just a few means used to achieve control.
Do you know somebody involved in domestic violence? Are YOU involved in domestic violence? Domestic violence doesn’t need to be the hidden crime. Help is available. Whether you are a victim or the controller in domestic violence, underlying issues can be resolved when you admit your need for help and then choose to find it.
Nobody deserves to live in constant restrictive fear. Liberation can be experienced and then, as The Light says “I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise (Isaiah 60:17-18 NIV). Let The Light guide you.