When violence is at the border of the visible: the violence of the smallest gestures

Elisabetta Biffi, University of Milano-Bicocca

Chiara Montà, University of Milano-Bicocca

In this paper, the word “violence” is used in a broad sense, in order to cover the different situations in which people are at risk of being physically and psychologically damaged (Hamby, Grych, 2013), in accordance with the definition provided by the World Health Organisation: «The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psycho-logical harm, maldevelopment or deprivation» (Krug, Mercy, Dahlberg, Zwi, 2002, p. 5).

This definition is also in line with General Comment №13 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: «For the purposes of the present general comment, “violence” is understood to mean “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse” as listed in article 19, paragraph 1, of the Convention» (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2011, par. 4).

It has to be noticed that, since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the interest and efforts in facing the violence against children phenomenon is considerably increasing. International conventions, national laws and several child protection strategies have been developed all around the world, with the definition of global strategies and movements which are hardly working in terms of prevention, sensibilization and coping. Despite all these actions, in 2015, 1,7 billion children in the world have experienced forms of interpersonal violence during the past year (Know Violence in Childhood, 2017). These numbers include: 1,3 billion children that experienced corporal punishment at home; 261 mil-lion children in schooling age who experienced peer violence; 100.000 children victims of homicide; 18 million adolescents, aged 15–19 years, sexually abused; 55 million girls aged 15–19 who experimented physical violence.

Despite these horrifying numbers, behind which faces, names, stories are hidden, these forms of violence struggle to emerge, they re-main in the shade because often not perceived as violence; because data is missing; or data is difficult to collect and often is outdated so does not reflect the real situation. The report Know Violence in Childhood (2017) reveals that children could experience violence during their whole growth span. During the pre-natal phase children pay the consequences of violence against their mothers; during early childhood they are exposed to the violence inflict-ed to their primary caregivers and other members of the family and can also be unawarely hurt during episodes of domestic violence. Between five and nine years of age, besides corporal punishment, children are ex-posed to peer violence and punishment in school. With pre-adolescence, the gender difference begins to become relevant: girls are often victims of sexual abuse, and boys are often involved in violence concerning the communities they are part of. There is no safe place either. Homes, institutions, school, online spaces, communities, public spaces, criminal organizations, are all spaces where several forms of violence can be experienced.

One of the reasons that remains at the back of this scenario is that violence does not only referred to the worst practices, which are mostly directed to the bodies of children: as the UN definition of corporal punishment underlined (UN Commitee on the Rights of the Child, 2006), any behavior that causes physical or emotional or psychological sufferance to the child is considered as violent. This definition, which is go-ing to be analyzed in the next paragraph, gives reason to the need of considering as violent even those smallest practices which are based on humiliation and denigration of the child as a form of intervention which can help the child him/herself in ‘being educated’. For this reason, the connection between families and educational services/schools will be considered as fundamental, because it is in the connection between educational styles that the possibility to protect children from the invisible violence is underpinned.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.13128/rief-7979

Read Full Text: https://oaj.fupress.net/index.php/rief/article/view/7979

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University of Florence

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The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy

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