By Sandi Syke
Violence is a result of a complex set of thoughts, feelings, past experiences and socialization of a person. The root cause of violence is still poorly understood.
Violence happens in many different forms, there’s physical, sexual, emotional, psychological violence. Many forms of violence are fuelled by negative emotions, some other forms may even be seen as acceptable as in self-defense or state-sanctioned punishments.
Abuse, however, is when this violence is directed against a person or group of people for no apparent reason other than the abuser’s own feelings and in order to gain and maintain power and control.
Although it’s generally accepted that violence occurs as an extreme of a negative emotion like anger, research done in Virginia Commonwealth University has shown, that in certain people, violence fuels a reward pathway, and they gain a “hedonic reward” of feelings of power and dominance. In these people there is a pleasurable feeling derived when they inflict violence on other people, sometimes they feel good because they have avenged a perceived wrong or slight on them.
In many people, both the negative emotions and hope for positive hedonic rewards are present before a violent act occurs. In people who have low self-esteem and who have underlying feelings of shame and guilt, when a wrong is perceived these negative feelings of further shame and possibly anger come up. For some of these people, they feel they will “regain their pride” by attacking the people who have wronged and shaming them as they have been shamed.
Generally speaking, the perpetrator of a violent crime picks on someone they think they can oppress. They would typically pick a victim they feel they can subdue, the reverse may also be the case in the sense that people who are smaller in any sense, even though violent, would not be aggressive towards people they feel are “bigger” than them.
This dynamic shows that violence, at its root, is about power and dominance. People who are violent do so because they can feel they can overpower their victims. This is particularly evident in sexual violence, where the perpetrator may feel slighted by a lack of attention from the victim or rejection of advances. The perpetrator then asserts themselves by attacking and subduing this victim. Or, in the abuse of minors, the abuser is typically an adult in a position of power over the minor. In examining this dynamic, we can fully understand why rapists and abusers choose to carry out various acts of abuse. They know deep down that they cannot be touched or are protected due to a systematic failure of either government policies or societal constraints.
This is why social contracts theorist, such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes explain that the reason why we have the state is to protect the lives and property of each citizen. Due to the anarchical nature of man, that allows him to be selfish and encourages violence, the creation of the state is the logical approach to reducing illegal violence. In other words, the state is tasked with the protection of all its citizens. Both young and old, weak and strong, child and adult. So, therefore, if a state fails to accomplish this and a vacuum exists where the strong can oppress the weak, it can be said that the state has failed in its primary duty.
There would always be weaker people and there would always be stronger people. What makes a difference is a system that requires and compels accountability and responsibility, without taking into account the social class or status of the individual involved. An abuser is an abuser and should serve the full consequences of their actions. If they don’t, and they are set free, the subliminal message being passed to the society is that the strong and powerful always win. This is a message we must not allow to grow further in Nigeria. Together, we can change this. Exercise your civic duties and promote leaders who have Nigeria in their best interest.