Sunday, 2 December 2012

Types of violence

Understanding violence is necessary for survival. I feel let down when I think that I spent endless years in school where I did not learn basic facts about violence. As a society we need to start clearly recognising the individual and institutionalised aggression which surrounds us if we want a peaceful future.

Today's experts on physical violence work for private security agencies and for governments. Their work is very empirical and is worth reading. This post is a summary of how I understand the classification of physical aggression proposed by these practitioners. There are reading recommendations at the end of this article.

Not all violence was created equal. Violent people have different purposes and can use violence in different ways. Different defence strategies work for different types of violence. There are four major types of physical aggression: resource predatory violence, process predatory violence, monkey dance and group monkey dance.

Resource predators

The purpose of a resource predator is to gain control over victim's possessions.
A typical example is a mugger pointing a knife at you in a dark alley. He does do not want you. He just wants your money, phone, car, etc.

In general a resource predator prefers to use intimidation and threats to physical violence because these are safer ways of obtaining the loot. But she can choose to use physical violence instead.

Resource violence usually happens when there are no witnesses or if the witnesses are too scared to respond. Resource predators are usually solitary and may be masked.

The video shows an example of a resource predator in action. The attacker is after the money in the cash register. She threatens the clerk with a knife, she gets the money and this time nobody gets hurt.

Process predators

Process predator sees other humans as commodities and uses violence to access them. Examples of process predation include: murder, rape, ritualistic torture and serial killings.

Process predators usually, but not always, act alone. To do their nasty business they need privacy and time so they often move the victim to a secondary crime scene which provides both. Many home invasions are perpetrated by process predators because homes offer them privacy.

Process predators often rely on the victim's cooperation or lack of assertiveness at the initial stage of the attack. They may use charm or a threat. For example they can threaten a victim with a gun to get him into a car which will then take him to a remote location where the assault will end very badly. Or they can offer and provide unwanted help in carrying a heavy shopping bag to a woman's house and then assault her when they are inside.

You know that you are dealing with a process predator if they do not go away once they have your wallet. Also if they try to move you to a secondary crime scene or they have invaded your home it is a solid indication.

Process predation usually ends very badly for the victim if she does not manage to escape.

You can find examples of process predatory violence in Gavin de Becker's book I reference at the end of this post.

Monkey dance

Some people use monkey dance to establish social status. It most often happens between young males, especially if females are watching. But it can happen to everyone. 

On some level both parties escalating a monkey dance to physical violence do it voluntarily. On another level they are hormonally unable to quit a monkey dance once it starts. It is primal. You can tell you are in a monkey dance if you feel that you have to defend your status. 

It looks like this: you walk down the street with your girlfriend and you pass two guys. One of then says 'what are you starring at?'. You say 'what are you starring at'. He comes closer. You stop. He pushed your chest, you push back. More shouting. A fight starts.

Monkey dance usually ends just with bruises and broken noses. Unless somebody's head hits a curb when they fall, it is normally not deadly. A fight ends when there is a clear victor and the looser accepts his lower status. Because its purpose is to gain or maintain social status, a monkey dance usually happens with other people watching.

Here is an example of a monkey dance. One guy accidentally blocks the road, the guy behind him shouts, an argument starts and eventually one of them assaults the other one.

Group monkey dance

Group monkey dance can be as bad as process predatory violence. It happens when a group establishes internal hierarchy by picking on someone who is not a member of the group. The more damage a group member does to the victim, the more loyalty he proves to the group.

Examples include random victims of gang violence, racist, religious or ethnic violence and mob lynches.

Being a victim in a group monkey dance is a a terrible thing because the victim is outnumbered which makes it very difficult to escape and fight.

The video below shows a group attack on an outsider. Multiple group members hit the victim using overwhelming violence. Warning - this video is quite brutal.

Other types of violence

In addition to the four major types of violence, there are rare situations when an individual establishes his reputation for being crazy by brutally assaulting a random person. This can happen in extreme social environments and it does not fit into any of the major categories or aggression I described above.

There are additional types a of violence identified by some of the experts but I think that most of them fit into one of the above broad categories. However, for completeness, here is the terminology: educational beat down, which is a form or monkey dance or non lethal process predation sanctioned by the group. Sexual violence, which is a form of non lethal process predation. Status seeking show, which is a type of group monkey dance. There are also gang jumps and other initiation rituals which, since they are voluntary, I am not sure if they can be properly called "violent".

Different types of violence can mix together. Also, in every violent group some members may just be interested in resource violence while others may find pleasure in the act itself.

The video below shows a situation where a group of attackers steals money from a safe. They threaten multiple people with guns and they physically assaults two people to get what they want. Then process violence starts: after they looted the safe, they decide to imprison their victims. Warning - this video is quite brutal.

A post on defences against the different types of violence to follow up soon.

Book recommendations
  • The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker
  • Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected by Rory Miller
  • Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence by Sgt. Rory Miller
  • The Little Black Book of Violence: What Every Young Man Needs to Know about Fighting by Marc MacYoung, Rory Miller, Lt. Col. John R. Finch and Lawrence A. Kane

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