Violence is an exceptionally complex and still very obscure concept. The difficulty one faces when trying to come to terms with the meaning of violence is that this single term is used in a number of different ways, and it covers a vast array of different phenomena. Reading the literature on violence one usually is confronted with the following scenarios: we speak of someone ‘being violent’ (Anthony forced his way through the crowd), or someone ‘doing violence to’ something or someone (Bill’s interpretation of the play does violence to the text). Sometimes violence refers to an outcome (Daniel raped Elizabeth), although other times it is the intention rather than the outcome that defines violence (Daniel tried to rape Elizabeth). Sometimes violence takes the form of an act (Fred killed Gina by lethal injection), although other times violence takes the form of an omission (Fred killed Gina by not giving her the medications she needed). Violence can be directed to other people (Harry punched Ivan), to inanimate objects (Jack smashed the door), to animals (Kendy hanged the cat by the tail) or to oneself (Louise slashed her wrist). Violence can be physical (Monica punched Nancy, breaking her nose in the process) or psychological (Orlando verbally assaulted Patrick in public, inflicting psychological harm on Patrick). Violence can be direct (Quinn punched Robert), indirect (Steve was aversely affected after seeing Ted punch Ursula) or structural (Victoria died from lead poisoning as a result of working in a mine). Finally, violence can be immediate (Will stabbed Xavier) or it may involve a time lag (Yolanda left Zach to starve).
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