Posted by: joshjasper | December 4, 2008


As a member of 3 state coalitions, I find myself from time to time at meetings with other directors of rape crisis and domestic violence centers.  While attending meetings in Chicago today hosted by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, I found myself thinking about violence, but more specifically, violence at its most basic level.  I began thinking about how my definition of violence is probably different from many, and how by having a varied definition of this word could influence how we as a community perceive violence as a problem, and whether or not prevention efforts would succeed. 

Violence is often defined as a physical force for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing.

In my opinion, violence is much more.  Violence includes: physical, emotional, sexual, bullying, dating, verbal, human trafficking, pornography, stalking, child abuse, and neglect.  This list could certainly include many more examples.  Interestingly, I think of women when I reread the list that I have created.  I would assume that is the case because it is women who are the most victimized in many of these examples. 

I also got to thinking about why people are violent.  The root of violence is often argued as to whether or not it is learned or if genetics factor in with learned behavior.   I firmly believe that violence is learned.  I concede that people may be genetically predispositioned to be more aggressive than others, but aggressiveness is not synonymous with violence. 

A study conducted at Wake Forest concluded that children learn violent behaviors in primary social groups, such as the family and peer groups, as well as observe it in their neighborhoods and in the community at large.  These behaviors are reinforced by what children and adolescents see on television, on the Internet and in video games and movies, observe in music videos and hear in their music.

When children are disciplined with severe corporal punishment or verbal abuse or when they are physically or sexually abused, it is not surprising that they behave aggressively or violently toward others.

It doesn’t surprise me anyway….what about you?



  1. I would like to add I think children act aggressively or violently and it is a cry for help, they are trying to process something that is beyond their comprehension. Frustration, anxiety, fear can be seen as anger, because the violent or aggressive actions resulting from these emotions can be almost identical to violent actions taken by someone who is angry or aggressive. I would concur with your definition of violence, violence takes many forms.

  2. Great points Tabethe; all of which I agree with. Too often the response of a child “acting out” is met with a misunderstanding of the behavior, often assumed to be defiance.

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