“Violence is not strength but weakness, it can never create anything, it will only destroy it”, said the philosopher Benedetto Croce. Unfortunately, mistreatment and abuse continue to exist. From physical abuse to psychological abuse, there are different types of violence that we can become victims of.
The problem is of such magnitude that each year more than 1.6 million people lose their lives violently in the world. In fact, violence is one of the main causes of death in people under 44 years of age. As if that were not enough, the World Health Organization has revealed that for every person who dies from violent causes, many others are injured and suffer from physical injuries to emotional problems that hinder their well-being and affect their mental health.
What is violence exactly?
Violence is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that has always concerned us as a society, even though containing it remains a challenge. Obviously, the wide variety of ethical and cultural codes that exist in different countries add complexity to the concept of violence. Acceptable and unacceptable behaviors that are considered violent have varied over time, change by culture, and are even under constant review.
The WHO defined violence as “The intentional use of physical force, threats against oneself, another person, a group or a community that results or is very likely to result in trauma, psychological harm, developmental problems or death”.
From a psychological point of view, the concept of violence refers to any intentional action that causes physical, psychological or emotional harm to another person, which includes both physical violence and verbal or emotional violence, emphasizing the impact these actions have on the victim.
Melanie Klein believed that violence is the result of an inability to manage and resolve these conflicts in a healthy way. “Violence is a desperate attempt to repair a sense of loss and destruction,” she wrote.
On the other hand, Albert Bandura thought that violence is learned through the observation and imitation of violent models. He considered that “Violence is a learned behavior, not an innate response to frustration.”
In fact, the different types of violence are still a social and cultural phenomenon that reflects the inequalities and conflicts of the societies in which they occur. For this reason, some sociologists have highlighted the importance of analyzing the power structures and relations that underlie violence, as well as the social and cultural factors that perpetuate it.
The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, for example, analyzed violence within the framework of the structures and relations of power in society. Bourdieu argued that violence is often a way of maintaining and reinforcing domination. He believed that “Symbolic violence is at the base of physical violence and cannot be understood if it is not recognized as such.”
What types of violence exist?
Violence can manifest itself in different ways. Sometimes it is obvious, at other times it takes forms that are much more subtle and difficult to detect. However, in all cases its consequences are usually devastating for those who suffer from it.
Types of violence according to the offender
A basic classification of violence focuses on the aggressor, the person or group that commits the aggression:
Self-inflicted violence, also known as self-harm, refers to the harm that a person does to himself deliberately, without intending to commit suicide. It is estimated that between 5 and 20% of the population practice self-harm, a problem more common in adolescents, young people and people with a mental disorder.
This type of violence manifests itself in different ways, from cutting and burning the arms and thighs, to hitting oneself, pulling out one’s hair or fingernails. However, it also includes the consumption of harmful substances or the deliberate infliction of diseases.
People who self-harm often do so to deal with difficult or painful emotions, such as anxiety, depression, anger, or guilt. By inflicting physical pain on themselves, they experience temporary relief, although it is usually brief and followed by feelings of shame or guilt for having hurt themselves. Thus, in the long term such injuries worsen underlying problems and perpetuate the cycle of emotional and physical pain.
It should be noted that although self-injury is not usually suicidal behavior, it can be dangerous because these people often sustain serious injuries, such as deep cuts, burns, or broken bones, and may require medical attention. In addition, self-injury may be an indicatoror underlying emotional or psychological problems that need to be treated.
2. Interpersonal violence
Interpersonal violence refers to any type of aggression or violent conduct between two or more people, whether physical, sexual, psychological or verbal. In fact, it can occur in all kinds of interpersonal relationships: within the couple, in the family, among friends, co-workers, neighbors…
Interpersonal physical violence, for example, involves the use of physical force and causes direct injuries to the person, which can be serious or even fatal. This type of violence often takes on a sexual nature, which means that it is any type of sexual activity without the consent of the other, including sexual harassment.
On the interpersonal level, verbal violence is also common. In this case, it refers to an aggressive, vexatious or cutting style of communication. Insults, threats and yelling are usually involved, although it can also occur through constant criticism or even the use of silence as punishment.
In fact, also psychological violence is relatively common in interpersonal relationships and involves behaviors that cause emotional damage. It is more difficult to detect since it usually occurs through harassment, humiliation, intimidation or manipulation. In any case, this type of violence deeply affects the relationship and can also cause significant damage to the person who suffers it.
3. Collective violence
Collective violence is particularly terrifying and its consequences are often unpredictable. It refers to any form of violence in which a group or community attacks another group or individual. This form of violence encompasses conflicts between ethnic, religious, political or cultural groups.
Collective violence can have different intensity, which is why it manifests itself through riots and violent demonstrations as well as in civil wars and genocides. In many cases, collective violence arises as a result of a deep division between the groups that make up society. In fact, discrimination and oppression are often factors that create the tension that leads to collective violence.
An example of collective violence is pogroms, which refer to violent attacks against a specific group of people, such as Jews in Eastern Europe in the 1800s, that were motivated by a belief that Jews were a threat for society and the local economy.
Another example of collective violence is civil war, which occurs when there is a deep political or social division in a country. Genocide is also another unfortunate example of collective violence. It refers to the deliberate attempt to exterminate a specific group of people because of their race, religion, or ethnic origin, such as the extermination of millions of Jews at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.
However, it should be clarified that collective violence can also occur in a context of protests and riots, generating everything from brutal actions of the police to acts of vandalism by protesters.
Types of violence according to the nature of the act
When analyzing the different types of violence, a distinction can also be made between the act, depending on the nature and content of the aggression:
4. Physical violence
Physical violence is probably the best known and easiest to distinguish since it refers to all those intentional actions that cause harm, pain or injury to another person through the use of force. Therefore, it is about all physical contact that causes damage, from a blow to a push.
Obviously, physical violence can have serious consequences for the health and well-being of the victim. It can cause physical injuries, such as fractures, bruises and internal injuries, as well as having a negative emotional impact. In many cases, physical violence is considered a criminal offense and punishable by law.
It should be noted that while the focus is always on the victims as it is important to protect them, also the violent person needs professional help to address underlying issues and prevent future acts of violence.
5. Sexual violence
Sexual violence involves any form of unwanted or forced sexual contact or conduct, which means that it is inflicted on a person without his/her consent. This type of violence can take many forms, from rape and sexual assault to stalking. Curiously, this type of violent behavior does not always come from strangers, most cases of sexual violence occur precisely in the closest environments, taking the form of domestic violence.
Sexual violence also includes other situations, such as forced marriages, female genital mutilation and commercial sexual exploitation. In addition, it covers any act of a sexual nature that is carried out without the person’s consent, from unwanted touching to exposure to sexual material without the person’s consent.
Sexual violence ends up being an act of power and control that causes emotional, physical and psychological damage to the affected person. Unfortunately, those who have been victims of these acts experience feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety and fear. They often have a hard time talking about their experience and asking for help, so it’s important for them to understand that what happened is not their fault.
6. Verbal violence
Verbal violence implies all those forms of communication that cause harm, pain or humiliation. It can be both verbal and non-verbal, so it can be about insults, shouting, despise, threats and sarcasm, but also silence and indifference when used to hurt the other.
Often this type of violence is perpetrated by people who have a close relationship with the victim, so that its devastating effects are added to the devastating effect of the affective bond. For this reason, it is one of the most difficult types of violence to detect and eradicate.
However, verbal violence can be very damaging to the victim’s self-esteem and emotional health. Its effects can be long-lasting, causing all sorts of mental health problems, from depression to anxiety. It also usually affects the person’s academic or work performance, as well as their social sphere and quality of life in general.
7. Economic violence
Economic violence is one of the most surreptitious, but also the most widespread, generally within the framework of the closest interpersonal relationships. It is the use of economic resources to control, manipulate or harm another person. This form of violence can take various forms, such as limiting the person’s access to economic resources, withholding money, controlling his/her property or even preventing him/her from working or looking for a job so that he/she has to depend financially on the abuser.
Obviously, economic violence can be particularly harmful to people who are economically dependent on their partner or family, such as women, children and the elderly. In some cases it consists of depriving the necessary resources to cover basic needs or restricting access to education, which makes it difficult for the victim to achieve economic independence.
Economic violence can also occur when one person threatens another with economic harm or if their actions have a negative economic impact, such as forced borrowing or wasting shared resources. These practices can cause lasting economic damage to the affected person and hinder their economic recovery.
Unfortunately, this type of violence can be difficult to detect as it usually occurs gradually, over time. The people affected feel trapped in the relationship and find it difficult to cut their losses because they do not have an economic support that allows them to free themselves from that yoke that oppresses them.
8. Cultural violence
Cultural violence is based on discrimination and prejudice towards certain cultural groups. It generally manifests itself through the imposition of cultural norms and values that marginalize and exclude other people and entire communities. In fact, this type of violence occurs in the context of social relations and can be carried out by individuals, groups or even society in general.
Racial, ethnic or religious discrimination are some of the most common manifestations of cultural violence. However, it can also be expressed as intolerance towards cultural practices different from one’s own, the denial of the rights of others, the imposition of cultural stereotypes and the marginalization and exclusion of different groups.
Within all types of violence, this modality is particularly harmful because it attacks the cultural identity and self-esteem of marginalized people and communities. It limits their access to opportunities and resources, such as education, employment, health care, and political and social participation. As a result, it leads to greater inequality and social exclusion.
With the spread of the Internet and social networks, new types of violence have also emerged. Cyberbullying, for example, refers to a form of bullying, intimidation or aggression that occurs through digital media, be it social media, email, text messages, or instant messaging applications.
Cyberbullying can occur in a thousand different ways. A person can spread rumors and lies about other persons, defame them, expose private information, creating false profiles that cause them problems, supplanting their identity or harassing them for sexual, racial, religious or any other reason. It also includes threats through social networks and incitement to hatred.
Recognizing cyberbullying as a form of violence is important since it promotes social awareness and the taking of measures to prevent, detect and solve it. Unfortunately, victims often feel trapped and isolated. The very characteristics of cyberbullying make them feel defenseless against the attackers, who may remain anonymous or may be located anywhere in the world.
Also, cyberbullying is particularly harmful because it can be constant. The person may feel persecuted and watched over, which often ends up causing anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder and, on many occasions, ends with suicide.
Negligence is a peculiar form of violence since it occurs by omission. It is not an active act, like hitting or hurtful words, but refers to the lack of care or attention to the needs of another person, especially when it comes to someone who is dependent or especially vulnerable. Although this type of violence can occur in different contexts, it is more common within the home, school and health services.
Negligence can take many forms, from the denial of food, shelter, medical care, education, and other necessary resources to the lack of supervision and protection. Emotional neglect suffered in childhood, for example, leaves psychological scars for life as parents, who should be a source of support and affection, present an indifferent attitude towards the needs of their children.
Neglect can be difficult to detect, especially when it is a form of violence by omission. However, it can have serious consequences for the health and well-being of the people affected as it can lead to ill-health, malnutrition, disease, injury and long-term psychological damage.
Obviously, violence has devastating effects, both for the victim and the perpetrator and for society in general. For that reason, it is important to remember that it can occur in any context and can take many different forms. However, no type of violence is acceptable. If you are a victim of violence or know someone who is, it is essential that you ask for help.
Bandura, A. (1973) Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis. The Prentice-Hall: Nueva Jersey.
Bourdieu, P. (1998) La dominación masculina. Anagrama: Barcelona.
Klein, M. (1957) Envy and gratitude; a study of unconscious sources. Basic Books: Nueva York.