Interpersonal Violence: Social Harm or Crime?


From research, it is evident that more than one million individuals become the target of violence. The impact of violence can be shattering and devastating and thus, the victim may experience depression, anxiety, hopelessness. Interpersonal violence is considered to be that type of violence, in which the abuser has total command and control over the victim. This control can be physical, emotional, economical, separation or taking full economic control. According to the U.K Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “interpersonal violence is the leading public health problem in the mid 1980s and early 1990s” (Croall, 1998: p.201).  Research also suggests that interpersonal violence takes place between two individuals, who know each other at personal level. In simple terms, interpersonal violence is considered to be the illegal use and implementation of physical force to control each and every aspect of the victim’s life (Croall, 1998: p.211). Interpersonal violence can be physical, emotional, sexual or verbal. The question arises whether all types of interpersonal violence must come under the umbrella of social harm or crime? The aim of this paper is to analyze whether all forms of interpersonal violence must come under the umbrella of social harm or crime in the lights of broad and diverse academic resources.

In simple terms, violence is considered to deliberate, planned and on purpose use and implementation of power and physical force to intimidate, terrorize and threaten the security and safety of another, which may result in “injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation” (Croall, 1998: p.252). Thus, from this definition it can easily be seen that interpersonal violence is different from unintentional and accidental events. In order to understand the concept of interpersonal violence, it is essential to identify and discuss its various forms. From the works of Jones (2001: p.101), interpersonal violence is considered to be violence that occurs between individuals, who are in a relation with one another. In order to understand interpersonal violence, it is essential to its various forms (Muncie & McLaughlin, 2002: p.41). The forms of interpersonal violence include physical and emotional violence. The impact of emotional violence is greater as compared to the physical violence because the physical scars disappear eventually. The emotional wounds and scars remain for a long period of time and thus, it may take time for the victim to recover from it (Jones, 2001: p.112).

The different types of interpersonal violence are: verbal abuse, relationship violence, physical assault and sexual assault. Verbal abuse is considered to be a form interpersonal violence in which the abuser abuses the victim verbally. This may come in the form of threats, insults, taunts and derision (Jones, 2001: p.122). Relationship violence occurs between couples. In this type of violence, one of the partners assumes the lead role and controls each and every aspect of the other by means of words as well as actions, which may physically and emotionally abuse the victim. In this type of violence, the victim may experience verbal abuses, emotional abuse, physical assault, intimidation along with sexual assault. From research, it is evident that dating or relationship violence occurs in heterosexual as well as homosexual couples (Jones, 2001: p.129). From a study conducted by Muncie & McLaughlin ( 2002: p.41), it was concluded that four out of ten women, who are between the ages sixteen to twenty four, have been the target of relationship violence. The same study indicates that fifty percent of the women were married and had been the target of domestic violence. Furthermore, the same research also indicated that about thirty five percent of the married women had been experiencing physical, sexual and verbal assault by their abuser before their marriage.

In relationship violence, the victim may experience emotional and mental instability and thus, they may remain for very long period of time. This impacts the emotional and mental health of the victim and therefore, can only be healed, if the abuse stops. Emotional abuse is considered to be one of the most difficult abuse to be detected as it develops gradually and thus, breaking the victim(Muncie & McLaughlin, 2002: p.48). Furthermore, the victim becomes more dependent on the abuser and thus, loses their self-esteem and self-confidence. Their poor self concept ultimately makes them to think that they deserve the abuse.

Another type of violence is physical violence, in which the abuser uses physical force to display power and complete control over the victim. It is defined as that form of interpersonal violence which is used to physically harm the victim.  Physical violence includes hitting, striking, punching, throttling, use weapon against the victim, tying the victim with a rope and leaving in isolation, using force to sexually abuse the victim, etc. Research suggests that hitting and slapping the victim are the most common types of physical violence practiced by abusers (Muncie & McLaughlin, 2001: p.62). In certain instances, the abuser may use deadly and lethal weapons and tools to hit the victim. Physical violence may also lead to sexual violence in which the abuser may physically assault the victim, followed by rape.

Sexual violence is another type of violence. Acts of sexual violence include inappropriate caressing of private parts, sexual harassment, making attempts to rape the victim, forceful sexual penetration, etc. the nature of sexual violence varies from one abuser to another. “Examples of this are voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public), and incest (sexual contact between family members), and sexual harassment” (Muncie & McLaughlin, 2001: p.141). Other forms of interpersonal violence include family violence. Family violence is the type of interpersonal violence, which can further be classified as domestic, elderly or child abuse. Family violence is considered to be that type of interpersonal violence in which the abuser physically, emotionally, sexually or negligently exploits the user in order to harm the victim. Child violence is defined as the violence in which the abuser assaults and threatens the security and welfare of the child. Elderly abuse is that abuse in which elderly people are mistreated whether they are at home or in an institution (Muncie & McLaughlin, 2002: p.151).

After an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of different types of interpersonal violence, the question arises that what is the nature of interpersonal violence. Are all types of interpersonal violence come under the category of crime or social harm? It should be noted that all types of interpersonal violence are connected to one another. Interpersonal violence starts at home, where the victim is abused by the abuser. The abuse may start from verbal abuse, followed by physical assaults and sexual violence. Thus, interpersonal violence must be seen as a crime as the abuser endangers the security, emotional stability and welfare of the victim (Muncie & McLaughlin, 2002: p.189). The internal environment acts as a sanctuary for the abuser, where the victim is assaulted and abused.  The internal environment also acts as a powerful harbor for the abuser because they know that the victim is vulnerable and thus, would not file any charges against him or her (Hillyard & Tombs, 2008: p.114).

Verbal form of interpersonal abuse can take place anywhere, anytime and in any personal relations. Research suggests that the perpetuators of the interpersonal violence primarily adopt unusual patterns of abuse (Muncie & McLaughlin, 2002: p.198). The adoption of unusual pattern is an attempt to mask him or her self in order to target the victim, without getting caught. It is also adopted in order to ensure that the victim remains under their influence and power and thus, the victim is unable to identify the abuse (Hillyard & Tombs, 2008: p.155).

Interpersonal violence is the product of both the abuser and the victim. The abuser is most likely to abuse the victim to gain total and complete control in order to elevate their self-esteem and self-confidence. Their acts of controlling the victim assists them to totally control each and every aspect of the victim, thus, making them feel powerful and strong. On the other hand, it leads the victim vulnerable and weak (Hillyard & Tombs, 2008: p.201). The victim mostly feels depress and guilty and blames him or her self for the abuse and thus, they lose their self-esteem and self-confidence. The abuser is also known to have psychological and mental issues and thus, he or she attacks the victim in order to justify their behavior. The mental and psychological issues of the abuser are generally because of the issues and abuse he or she faced during childhood (Hillyard & Tombs, 2008: p.222). The wounds he or she experienced during childhood are the reason, which develops rage in him or her and therefore, he or she is most likely to take out that rage in the relationship. Broken homes, victims of physical or sexual assaults, etc are most likely to be the triggers of interpersonal violence. At the same time, he or she did not learn the ability to control his or her negative emotions and therefore, him or her resort to violence in order to express them. However, it should be noted that this must not give the abuser the reason to exploit and take advantage of the victim (Hillyard & Tombs, 2008: p.256).

Irrespective of the fact that why the abuser resorts to interpersonal violence, the victim is also an equal counterpart. Why? Because he or she chooses to bear the violence and thus, the entire cycle and pattern of the violence is repeated. Initially, the abuser ensures that the victim stays in a loving and compassionate relationship with him or her. Once the attachment is developed between the victim and the abuser, the abuser slowly and gradually adopts violent behavior (Pantazis, 2004: p.71). This violent starts with insults, mocks and taunts and followed by physical assaults and eventually sexual abuse. During the initial stages, the victim is perplexed with the sudden change in the behavior and thus, they come up with several excuses in order to maintain the secrecy of the abuser(Pantazis, 2004: p.78). Furthermore, they assume that the abuser would change and constantly believe that they would understand their behavior and their emotions. Thus, silence and enduring the violence for a long period of time makes the victim vulnerable, depress, emotionally and mentally instable.

From research, it is evident that the victims of the abuse are most likely to experience negative and depressive emotions such as refusal, rejection, apprehension, lack of faith and inadequate knowledge. The victim is most likely to be in the stage of denial and thus, he or she is unable to identify or recognize the interpersonal violence. In order to maintain the security and welfare of the patient, it is essential that the victim is taken out from the denial phase (Pantazis, 2004: p.119). After recognizing that his or her partner has severely abused him or her, there is a possibility that they may still maintain their silence. This is because of apprehension. Fear has several forms. The abuser may use financial reasons, children or threats to harm a loved one in order to cast fear in the heart of the victim. These fears play an important and active part in trapping the victim and therefore, abusers ensure that the victims are financially dependent on them and thus, they use finance as a method of intimidating the victim. The initial phase of the interpersonal relationship usually starts with a compassionate relationship so that the abuser is attentive and guarantees to the victim that he or she would not repeat that erratic behavior (Pantazis, 2004: p.174). Thus the victim has the feeling and faith that the abuser would change. The vulnerability of the victim further creates hindrance and threatens his or her welfare as they are not aware of the social, physical and emotional consequences of the abuse they suffer silently.

As mentioned earlier, interpersonal violence takes place between two individuals, who are in a relationship. Children and elderly are also most likely to be the victims of interpersonal abuse (White & Habibis, 2005: p.21). In certain instances, the abuser uses physical and sexual violence against the child in order to control him or her. Furthermore, an abuser can abuse his or her elderly parent in order to exert power and control or to take out his or her rage. The abuser is responsible for creating emotional and mental scars on the victim and this because of their ego. Their bruised ego prevents them to seek professional help and thus, they continuously indulge themselves in interpersonal violence in order to elevate their self-confidence and self-esteem. The outcomes of the abuse are deadly and lethal (White & Habibis, 2005: p.31). After the initial violence, the abuser is most likely to use violence. For this purpose, he or she may use tools to hit the victim and physically threaten his or her safety and security. Physical violence is followed by sexual violence. Acts of sexual violence acts the child or partner may include touching of private parts and forceful vaginal, oral or anal penetration.

All forms of interpersonal violence are crimes against humanity. In United Kingdom, acts of violence that threaten the welfare and security of the individual and sexual assaults comes under the category of interpersonal crimes (White & Habibis, 2005: p.85). In legal context, physical and sexual assaults have been defined in the existing British legislature. Interpersonal violence as defined by the British legal system includes marital rape, domestic violence, child abuse, elderly abuse, etc. According to the British Crime Survey of 2000-2001, forty five percent of females were raped by their existing partners. In another research, it was found out that thirty three percent of the sexual assaults were because of interpersonal violence. The initiator of the abuse was a family member(White & Habibis, 2005: p.82). The same British Crime Survey also demonstrated that out of 610000 victims, forty nine percent of the females were married and were verbally, physically and sexually assaulted by their partners. Out of 610000 victims, thirty percent of the females continued to suffer in silence and have developed chronic depression, anxiety and fear (White & Habibis, 2005: p.83). The same report also indicated that forty percent of these women have developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (White & Habibis, 2005: p.84) According to the data compiled by Myhill & Allen (2002: p.147) more than twenty six thousand cases have registered as marital rape cases in England and Wales. This figure demonstrates that with the increase in population, there has been increase in interpersonal violence.

In another report, it was found out that children, elderly people and women are most likely to be the target of interpersonal violence. The same report suggested that younger women are mostly to become the targets of marital rape as compared to elderly women. “Women between the ages 22-30 reported group reported the highest numbers of  marital rapes, sexual violence and physical assault”. The same research further suggests that “these women are most likely to be married or in a long term relationship, are socially active and therefore, they are most likely to be the victims of interpersonal violence.” the same study also demonstrated that children and elderly are most likely to be abused by a family member.  “Majority of the interpersonal crimes takes place at homes. Most reported rapes take place in a domestic dwelling, either that of the victim or the offender – 55% of rapes were committed in the victim’s own home and 20% in the home of the offender” (Segal, 2003 : p. 105).According to Segal claims, ‘it is startling to realise that rape and men’s violence towards women became a serious social and political issue only through feminist attention to them’ (Segal, 2003, p211). Furthermore, she asserts “Brownmiller for the questioning of what became known as the ‘myths of rape’, which has revolutionised the study and treatment of this crime”(Segal, 2003, p212). From research, it is evident that “Interpersonal violence offenders are almost entirely male, with only around 2% of offenders being women”  (Jones, 2001, p.444). In the eyes of the law, interpersonal violence is a crime as it seeks to physically, emotionally and psychologically wound the victim. At the same time, the abuser takes complete control of his or her life and hence, this becomes a moment of fear and terror for the victim. In United Kingdom, one of ten women suffers from interpersonal violence (Reza, Mercy & Krug, 2001 :p.111). The abuser also tends to ensure that the victim loses his or her social contact in an attempt to intimidate him or her.

Interpersonal violence is a growing concern in the contemporary British society and thus, it should be viewed as a crime, which can emotionally, mentally and physical scar the life of the individual, who had experienced the abuse. It is the product of both the abuser and the victim (Myhill & Allen, 2002: p.222). The abuser is most likely to abuse the victim to gain total and complete control in order to elevate their self-esteem and self-confidence (Reza, Mercy & Krug, 2001: p.111). The victim vulnerable and weak and mostly feels depress and guilty and blames him or her self for the abuse and thus, they lose their self-esteem and self-confidence. The victim is same as the abuser as he or she chooses to bear the violence and thus, the entire cycle and pattern of the violence is repeated. The abuser may use financial reasons, children or threats to harm a loved one in order to cast fear in the heart of the victim(Myhill & Allen, 2002: p.269). These fears play an important and active part in trapping the victim and therefore, abusers ensure that the victims are financially dependent on them and thus, they use finance as a method of intimidating the victim. Children and elderly are also most likely to be the victims of interpersonal abuse.

Interpersonal violence is crime against humanity. It has several types. The main types of interpersonal violence include physical, emotional, mental and sexual assaults, which can permanently scar the life of the victim. All forms of interpersonal violence are considered to be criminal acts as they hurt the welfare and security of the victim. The abuser uses total control and power in order to take complete control of the victim’s life. Interpersonal violence is considered to be violence that occurs between individuals, who are in a relation with one another. In order to understand interpersonal violence, it is essential to its various forms.

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