Did this headline make you jump? It was deliberately, because I wish to speak to you about this matter.
Unfortunately, it seems like we can never stop talking about violence, as it goes on forever. While I stayed in The Gambia this summer, I had the honour to be able to hold two workshops at the Police Headquarters in Banjul. One was about non-verbal communication and the other about domestic violence. Violence includes so much more than slapping someone’s face, or beating someone with a stick. Violence is any kind of act that is meant to harm someone else, physically and/or mentally, and to restrict their human rights.
I have held this workshop several times before, and every time I ask the question: “What is violence?” the first answers are all about physical violence.
Violence is defined by the World Health Organisation as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.
This definition emphasises that a person or group must intend to use force or power against another person or group in order for an act to be classified as violent.”
This is one way of looking at the matter, and as usual when we come to an organisation – explained in a complicated way. This definition from the WHO seems to focused mainly on the physical harm, but violence is so much more. Let me give you more information: there are several forms of violence, like:
Psychological/emotional violence, financial violence, digital violence, harassment and stalking, neglect, material violence, latent violence and sexual violence
Let us begin from the top, we have already mentioned the physical part of violence, so let us continue.
Psychological/emotional violence hold. Now remember that everything that has the purpose of harming someone else is considered as an act of violence. Perhaps you are not used to this definition, but it is always interesting to learn something new, isn’t it? This kind of violence can be combined with physical violence, but it doesn’t have to. Breaking down someone mentally has a much longer healing process than a physical wound. If you always get to know that you are useless, ugly, stupid, un-clean, and can’t do anything right you begin to believe so about yourself. If a spouse is telling you that you should be grateful that he is married to you, because you are too ugly and useless so no-one would want you, then you begin to believe that. It doesn’t matter if you were pretty and popular when you were younger – you see yourself as he is telling you to, a useless person who doesn’t deserve a good life.
Financial violence: What does that have to do with violence? As I told you in the beginning; any act that deliberately causes harm to someone else is considered as violence. How about the lady who has been growing vegetables? She has been working so hard and when she finally harvest them, she sells them at the market. This lady had plans for her money; new shoes for the kids, a bag of rice, etc. Her secret stash of money appeared to not be as secret as she had hoped. Her spouse had found it and used the money for his own needs; some gambling, tobacco and so on. An act meant to harm, not a harmless act as many considers it to be.
Digital violence: In these modern times when so many are living more through their social media, than in real life, real harm can be caused. There is a huge problem with this type of violence, as it is very hard to get hold of the perpetrators. They can cause harm anonymously; they can pretend to be a completely different person with a profile picture they have found online. With some quick and cowardly clicks on the keyboard they can ruin someone else’s life completely.
Harassment and stalking: How many times are people not harassing officials without a thought that they are humans too? How many times are people not backstabbing a young female online because they know, they have heard, they know someone who knows and so on and therefore they MUST spread their crap online? Stalking is not only about following someone, or waiting outside their compound. It can also be a matter of spreading rumours in a neighbourhood so the victim is afraid to leave their house as they feel they are followed by prying eyes everywhere.
Neglect. Don’t forget: It is a matter of deliberately causing harm to someone else. Let us say that an elderly man is bed-ridden and he must ask for help every time he needs to go to the bathroom. The caretaker is sick and tired of hearing him calling for help. She feels that he is doing nothing but calling for her, and she has a lot of other chores to do. When she finally goes to the man, he has wet his bed. It was her fault, but she blamed him. Now she has to wash him and the bedsheets. She is not bothered with his dignity as a human being, her frustration is causing this poor man harm. Let us add to this that the old man didn’t get his medication in time. She blames that she forgot because she had so much to do, but in a case of neglect – she simply didn’t bother giving it to him in time. Neglect is often used on people who can’t fend for themselves, as elderly, sick and disabled people.
Material violence: This is a matter of destroying someone’s belongings, like a TV, clothes, shoes, a mobile phone, a laptop or furniture. It is a matter of “letting out some steam”, of breaking something instead of someone just to get a point. You might think that it is better to break a thing, than a person, but all of us who know anything about Gambian conditions also know that most people don’t have a lot they can be without, just like that. It takes so long to save money for whatever you need, so it will be very hard to replace what you have lost. Let say that it was the wedding photos, or the photos of the kids that were destroyed, just because someone needed to “let out some steam.” How to replace these photos and the memories connected to them?
In my essay, next week, I will continue with the last two points on the list of violence; latent and sexual violence.
There is so much to say about these two, so I need to wrap my mind around them for a while. I hope I have given you some insight, so far, in what is considered as acts of violence. Violence is an act we choose to use, make smart choices!