What is violence?
Violence is any behavior that hurts someone or makes a person feel afraid. There are different types of violence, including:
- Physical. Forms of physical violence include pushing, shaking, slapping, forcing you to do sexual things against your will, throwing things at you, damaging your property, hurting or threatening you with a weapon, or hurting or killing your pets. If someone is being physically violent to you, seek safety as soon as possible.
- Emotional. This form of violence is often unrecognized and can be very hurtful. Some forms of emotional violence include making threats, speaking in a way that is frightening, putting you down, blackmail, teasing or harassing you online, and texting insults.
- Economic. Having money-and being able to make decisions about how to use it-is one form of independence. If someone is controlling your money, keeping you financially dependent, or making you ask for money unreasonably, then he or she is inflicting economic violence.
- Social. This form of violence can be an extension of emotional violence. If someone is insulting or teasing you in front of others, keeping you isolated from your family and friends, or controlling what you do and where you go, that person is being violent.
- Spiritual. Spiritual violence prevents you from having your own opinions about religion, cultural beliefs and values.
Violence can occur anywhere
Violence can occur in familiar places, such as work, home, school, or the internet or cell phone; and it can happen randomly, for example, on the street or at a party. You might know the person who is violent toward you, or this person could be a stranger. There are times when you might be able to predict that someone will become violent, while other times a violent act can happen out of the blue. Violence can also seem like a normal part of life in your neighborhood. Gangs can be both perpetrators of violence and a way to stay safe.
Working through what happened
If you’ve been a victim of a violent act, it’s normal to have an emotional response. Regardless of whether somebody intended to harm you directly, or whether he or she did it by accident, experiencing violence can be a traumatic experience. After an attack, you might feel a variety of emotions, ranging from fear and panic, to anger and sadness. Violence can also affect people who aren’t directly involved in a situation, but who know a victim of violence or who watch a violent act on the news or through other media. Sometimes the effects of violence and trauma can continue long after the incident. These effects might cause you to feel on edge, or frightened of being in or near similar situations as the one that resulted in violence. You might also have problems with sleeping or nightmares. Violence is not an acceptable way of solving conflict or obtaining control over a situation. If you’ve been hurt or are in danger, it’s important to contact the police.
Keeping your thoughts and feeling bottled up inside can result in explosive reactions later, as well as ongoing feelings of depression, tension, and sleeplessness. When you feel ready, tell someone you trust about what happened. They might help you take the next step toward finding help that can keep you safe and healthy.
Whether you have been harmed directly by violence or have been a witness to a violent act, you many need help to recover emotionally from the experience. Taking the first step to getting help can be scary, but it might be the only way to make sure that the violent behavior stops or the only way to keep the violent person away from you. Remember: Violence is not your fault. There are many positive ways to deal with a complicated situation, and violent people make the choice to act aggressively. If you share your situation with someone in authority who does not seem to be responsive, try someone else until you find someone who takes you seriously and takes action to protect you.
The most important thing to do during or after a violent encounter is to make sure you are safe. If possible, find a safe location to go to in order to guarantee that you’ll be out of harm’s way. If your situation is an emergency, call 911 for immediate police assistance.
Making decisions about your long-term needs and safety is important. A counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker might be able to help you make decisions about how to stay safe and how to cope with the emotional upset that is often part of a person’s reaction to violence. A mental health professional can help you identify how you’re feeling and how to manage your reactions. The Get Help section can give you more information about these professionals.
For more information
To learn more about different kinds of violence and ways of coping check out the other fact sheets on ReachOut under the Violence category.
For more information on violence against women, check out the National Women’s Health Information Center, sponsored by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services.
For real-time one-on-one support from trained Peer Advocates, contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline for a live, online chat or by telephone at 1-866-331-9474.
You may also receive support from the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673 or online. RAINN is a free confidential and secure crisis hotline 24/7 for victims of sexual assault or violence as well as their friends and families.
Last reviewed: Feb 27, 2013