Different Structural and Direct Forms of Violence

There are different structural and direct forms of violence. Cultural and structural violence cause direct violence. Direct violence reinforces structural and cultural violence. Direct violence, physical and/or verbal, is visible as behavior. But this action does not come from anywhere; its roots are cultural and structural.

Structural and Direct Forms of Violence

Violence can take many forms. Here I am going to discuss some of the structural and direct forms of violence below:

Direct Violence

Violence can take many forms. In its classic form, it involves the use of physical force, like killing or torture, rape and sexual assault, and beatings. Verbal violence, such as humiliation or put-downs, is also becoming more widely recognized as violence.

Peace and conflict study scholar Johan Galtung describes direct violence as the avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs or life which makes it impossible or difficult for people to meet their needs or achieve their full potential. The threat to use force is also recognized as violence.

Cultural Violence

Cultural violence is the prevailing attitudes and beliefs that we have been taught since childhood and that surround us in daily life about the power and necessity of violence.

Consider the telling of history which glorifies, records, and reports wars and military victories rather than people’s nonviolent rebellions or the triumphs of connections and collaboration.

Nearly all cultures recognize that killing a person is murder, but killing tens, hundreds, or thousands during a declared conflict is called a war.

Structural Violence

Structural violence exists when some groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc. are assumed to have, and in fact, do have, more access to goods, resources, and opportunities than other groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc.

This unequal advantage is built into the very social, political, and economic systems that govern societies, states, and the world. These tendencies may be overt as Apartheid or more subtle such as traditions or the tendency to award some groups privileges over another.

The pioneering professor of peace and conflict research, Johan Galtung, was the first to coin the phrase structural violence.

While his concerns were first and foremost related to peace research, his concept of structural violence is widely applicable and has extended to such fields as anthropology, clinked medicine, and sociology.

This theory of structural violence provides a useful framework for the understanding of structural violations of human rights, through an examination of how structures constrain agency to the extent that fundamental human needs are unattainable.

Here, the potential and actual levels match in the case of the tuberculosis patient in the eighteenth century; whereas the potential afforded by medical resources in the present day is higher than the actual.

This expanded conception of violence in terms of its avoidability criteria and the idea of glue between what is possible and what has actually been attained presents a myriad of contestable issues.

Moreover, structural violence as a theory helps to explain the distribution of such suffering. Structural violence, while it may not directly implicate the actor of violence, as outlined by Galtung exposes a clear logic behind the systemic nature of how violence is distributed.

The inequalities that exist in terms of disproportionate life chances because of disease or poverty are directly caused by an unequal distribution of resources but the underlying problem is that the power to decide over the distribution of resources is unevenly distributed.

Structural violence theorists characterize the world system as vastly unequal, exemplified by a growing disparity between those who are rich and getting richer and those who are poor and getting poorer.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event, but rather a pattern of perpetrator behaviors used against a survivor.

The pattern consists of a variety of abusive acts, occurring in multiple episodes over the course of the relationship. Some episodes consist of a sustained attack with one tactic repeated many times combined with a variety of other tactics.

One tactic (physical assault) may be used infrequently, while other types of abuse (such as name-calling or intimidating gestures) may be used daily.

Some parts of the pattern are crimes in most countries while other battering acts are not illegal. All parts of the pattern interact with each other and can have profound physical and emotional effects on survivors. Survivors respond to the entire pattern of perpetrators’ abuse rather than simply to one episode or one tactic.

Physical Violence

Physical abuse may include spitting, scratching, biting, grabbing, shaking, shoving, pushing, restraining, throwing, twisting, slapping punching, choking, burning, and/or use of weapons against the survivor. The physical assaults may or may not cause injuries.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence can take many forms and take place under very different circumstances. A person can be sexually violated by one individual or several people the incident may be planned or a surprise attack.

Although sexual violence occurs most commonly in the survivor’s home. It also takes place in many other settings, such as the workplace, at school, in prisons, in cars, on the streets, or in open spaces.

There is no stereotypical perpetrator, sexually violent men come from all backgrounds, rich and poor, academic and uneducated, religious and non-religious.

Specifically, rape and sexual torture are frequently used as weapons to demoralize the enemy; women are sometimes forced into “temporary marriages” with enemy soldiers.

Women who are incarcerated may be subjected to sexual violence by prison guards and police officers. Other forms of sexual violence include, but are not limited to:

  • Sexual slavery
  • Sexual harassment (including demands for sex in exchange for job promotion
  • Advancement or higher school marks or grades)
  • Trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation
  • Forced exposure to pornography
  • Forced pregnancy
  • Forced sterilization
  • Forced abortion
  • Forced marriage
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Virginity tests
  • Incest

Psychological Violence

There are different types of psychological assaults.

Threats of Violence and Harm

The perpetrator’s threats of violence or harm may be directed against the survivor or others important to the survivor or they may be suicide threats. Sometimes the threat includes killing the victim and others and then committing suicide.

Emotional Violence

Emotional abuse is a tactic of control that consists of a wide variety of verbal attacks and humiliations. This includes repeated verbal attacks against the survivor’s worth as an individual or role as a parent, family member, friend, co-worker, or community member.

In domestic violence, verbal attacks and other tactics of control are intertwined with the threat of harm in order to maintain the perpetrator’s dominance through fear.

While repeated verbal abuse is damaging to partners and relationships over time, it alone does not establish the same climate of fear as verbal abuse combined with the use or threat of physical harm.

The presence of emotionally abusive acts may indicate undisclosed use of physical force or it may indicate possible future domestic violence. Emotional abuse may also include humiliating the victim in front of family, friends, or strangers.

Perpetrators may repeatedly claim that survivors are crazy, incompetent, and unable to do anything right. Not all verbal insults between partners are acts of violence.

In order for verbal abuse to be considered domestic violence, it must be part of a pattern of coercive behaviors in which the perpetrator uses or threatens to use physical force.


Perpetrators often try to control survivors’ time, activities, and contact with others. They gain control over them through a combination of isolating and disinformation tactics. Isolating tactics may become more overtly abusive over time.

Through incremental isolation, some perpetrators increase their psychological control to the point where they determine reality for the survivors.

While many survivors are able to maintain their independent thoughts and actions, others believe what the perpetrators say because the survivors are isolated from contrary information.

Through his survivor’s isolation, the perpetrator prevents the discovery of the abuse and avoids being held responsible for it.

Use of Children

Some abusive acts are directed against or involve children in order to control or punish the adult victim. A perpetrator may use children to maintain control over his partner by not paying child support, requiring the children to spy, requiring that at least one child always is in the company of the survivor, threatening to take children away from her, involving her in long legal fights over custody, or kidnapping or taking the children hostage as a way to force the survivor’s compliance.

Children are also drawn into the assaults and are sometimes injured simply because they are present or because the child attempts to intervene in the fight.

Economic Violence

Perpetrators control survivors by controlling their access to all of the family resources: time, transportation, food, clothing, shelter, insurance, and money. It does not matter who the primary provider is or if both partners contribute.

He may actively resist the survivor becoming financially self-sufficient as a way to maintain power and control.

Conversely, he may refuse to work and insist that she support the family. He may expect her to be the family “bookkeeper,” requiring that she keep all records and write all checks, or he may keep financial information away from her.

In all instances being alone makes the decisions. Survivors are put in the position of having to get “permission” to spend money on basic family needs. All of these tactics may be used regardless of the economic class of the family.

Different Kinds of Structural and Direct Forms of Violence are:

  • Direct Violence
  • Cultural Violence
  • Structural Violence
  • Domestic Violence
  • Physical Violence
  • Sexual Violence
  • Psychological Violence
  • Threats of Violence and Harm
  • Emotional Violence
  • Isolation
  • Use of Children
  • Economic Violence

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