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Definitions of Violence and Violation, Adapted from Common Shock

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Definitions of Violence and Violation, Adapted from Common Shock

The Four Witness Positions

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Violence and violation can be personal or structural.

Personal violence occurs when we harm or injure another. The effects of this are usually visible to all involved, and may produce physical, psychological, spiritual, or material harm.

Structural violence occurs when the social system itself exploits some people to the benefit of others, producing the same kinds of harms, but to classes of individuals. This kind of violence and violation is often invisible to those who benefit, and the causes of harm may be invisible even to those who suffer from them.

Violation may be more subtle than violence. It too occurs directly between people and indirectly through structural inequities and injustices. In addition, processes such as illness, disability, aging, discrimination, and immigration can create the experience of violation. Through whichever means, if the experience disrupts our sense of meaning and we feel fear or dread then this constitutes violation.