and other behaviours against society
Assaults and threats are forms of behaviour which have
very bad consequences on the social texture of affected communities. Interpersonal violence
accounts for 2% of fatal injuries of all age groups in the EU27 and in
particular for 5% in the 1-4 years age group. Violence is not distributed evenly
among sex or age groups. More men than women are victims of violence.
However, the definition
of violence according to the World Health Organisation includes neglect and
psychological violence (including bullying). The results of this sort of
violence are harder to detect and quantify. Thus, the issue is under-addressed.
Yet unlike a physical injury, this sort of violence may be endured over a
period of time, and in the privacy and supposed safety of one’s home. Moreover,
it is the most vulnerable members of society – children, the elderly, and some
categories of women – who are the victims of this kind of violence.
has a website (http://www.euro.who.int/violenceinjury/violence/20050208_1)
dedicated to violence information and prevention. The WHO World Report on Violence
and Health contains interesting facts on the global perspective of the problem
of violence (WHO, 2002).
The EUICS Consortium maintains a website
(http://www.europeansafetyobservatory.eu/) with information retrieved by means
of survey-based comparative measurement of a large sample of the European
public. The EUICS Consortium activities developed a new instrument, the
European Crime and Safety Survey which follows on from the International Crime
Victims Surveys (ICVSs), and which addresses new needs for European comparative
data for policy-makers. EUICS
published a comparative analysis of crime and safety in Europe (EUICS, 2005).
Additional sources of information on
violence (e.g. homicides, are quoted in Chapter 7.
description and analysis
Homicides: As far as homicides are concerned, a detailed
analysis has been carried out in Chapter 7 (See figure 7.17).
Contact crimes: The three contact crimes in the European
Crime and Safety Survey are robbery, sexual incidents, assaults and threats.
Sexual incidents are divided into sexual assault and what victims describe as
offensive sexual behaviour. Assaults and threats can be separated into assaults
with force and threats only. It should be borne in mind that risks are
relatively low for each type of contact crime. Firm conclusions about relative
vulnerability are therefore hard to draw.
Sexual offences: Measuring sexual incidents is extremely
difficult in victimisation surveys, since perceptions as to what is an
unacceptable sexual behaviour may differ across countries, as well as readiness
the to report incidents to an interviewer over the phone. It is feasible that
women in countries where gender equality is less advanced are less inclined to
report sexual incidents, thereby deflating the national rates. The measures,
then, need to be interpreted with great caution. In the 2005 sweep of the EU
ICS the question was put to both female and male respondents45.
Positive answers from male respondents were much lower than from females. On
average, 0.5% of male respondents recorded a sexual incident. Somewhat higher
percentages were recorded only in Denmark (1.9%) and in the Netherlands (1.4%).
On average, 1.7% of women reported a victimisation. In order to maintain
comparability with the results of previous ICVS sweeps, the rates have been
calculated only for women. Margins of error around the rates for sexual
offences are therefore larger than for other offences. Figure 10.6.3.1. shows
the results. Some countries, notably Spain, Finland, Estonia, Poland and France
show remarkable decreases in sexual incidents compared to previous years.
Assaults and threats: Overall, 3% of respondents to the
question asked to identify assaults and threats indicated that they had been a
victim of an assault with force or threat of force.46 The United
Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands reported higher than average rates (4% and
above). The lowest levels were reported in Italy, Portugal, Hungary and Spain
(below 2%). Figure 10.6.3.1. shows national rates.
Prevalence rates for robbery, sexual offences of women, assaults and threats
Physical and sexual assaults occur daily, though precise
national and international estimates of this sort of offences are lacking (see
Tables 9.5.5 and 9.5.6). Not all assaults result in injuries severe enough to
require medical attention and – even among those that do result in serious injuries
– surveillance systems for reporting and compiling these injuries are in many
countries either lacking or still being developed. Obviously, hospital
discharge data only give a rough picture of the circumstances of non-fatal
injuries due to homicide, assault and other violence.
Interpersonal violence is an issue of growing public
concern and includes domestic violence, child abuse, abuse of the elderly and
youth violence. Interpersonal violence has many forms (physical, mental and
sexual), occurs in different environments (in the family, between intimate
partners, in the community, in institutions and at work) and undermines social
and economic conditions in society. No single factor explains why some
individuals behave violently towards others or why violence is more prevalent
in some communities than in others.
The inadequacy of the data, and thus of society’s
knowledge on the suffering of non-physical violence including child neglect and
abuse, is clear from the major limitations of the tables. Unfortunately, this
sort of neglect enters into the statistics only when it reaches the extremes of
unavoidable physical manifestation or death. It is not possible to undertake
surveys on infants or house-bound frail elderly to ask their abuse rate. Moreover,
some abuse to both children and the elderly actually occurs in institutions.
Both domestic and institutional abuse are a problem and a challenge requiring
much more active investigation in Europe.
At international level, the Secretary General of the United
Nations, the World Health Organisation, and the International Society for the
Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (IPSCAN) are seeking to address this
challenge with each seeking to establish measures and compile national
statistics. But within Europe the challenge is yet to be strongly addressed.
One current project is a strand on Inter-Personal Violence within the Public
Health Actions for a Safer Europe (PHASE) project, but this is limited to main
10.6.3.4. Control tools and policies
Violence is the result of the complex interplay of
individual, relationship, social, cultural and environmental factors.
Understanding how these factors are related to violence is one of the most
important steps in the public health approach for preventing violence. As
violence is a multifaceted problem with biological, psychological, social and
environmental roots, it needs to be immediately confronted at several different
levels. The recording of violence by the police is not sufficiently accurate or
detailed. In addition, the issue is heavily under-reported due to the
reluctance of victims to make reports. There is a need for more systematic
documentation and dissemination of violence prevention practices, in particular
involving the health sector in collaboration with the police, justice and
welfare system. Stakeholders need to be empowered by the provision of tools for
planning, implementing and evaluating violence prevention projects. Dealing
with violence on a range of levels involves addressing all the following
individual risk factors and taking steps to modify individual risk behaviours,
including the use of alcohol;
close personal relationships and working to create healthy family environments,
as well as providing professional help and support to dysfunctional families;
public places such as schools, workplaces and neighbourhoods and taking steps
to address problems that might lead to violence;
gender inequality, and adverse cultural attitudes and practices; and
the larger cultural, social and economic factors that contribute to violence
and taking steps to change them, including measures to close the gap between
the rich and poor and to ensure equitable access to goods, services and
The perception of safety is naturally related to crime
rates and the risk for victimization. However, looking at the subjective
perception of safety, it is especially the occurrence of physical or
environmental cues in the residential environment that leads to insecurity and
feelings of not being safe. Such cues can be physical incivilities such as
deterioration of neighbourhoods, trash or graffiti (indicating a low community
spirit and, in effect, a low social control), and social incivilities such as
conspicuous youth groups or people with a strange behaviour (questioning the
degree to which social norms and customs may be kept). Overall, people are more
likely to maximize the use of outdoor space if the area is perceived as safe.
Street lighting, police patrols and adequate environmental and building design
improvements show crime reduction effects and increase the confidence of
residents at night-time.
EUICS (2005): The Burden of Crime in the EU [on-line publication
available at: http://www.europeansafetyobservatory.eu/downloads/EUICS_The%20Burden%20of%20Crime%20in%20the%20EU.pdf].
WHO (2002): World Report on Violence and
Health [on-line publication available at: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/en/]