To neglect the full range of contextual and interactional details surrounding violence is to risk completely misunderstanding the child. Theories or assessments which do not take into account the context of a young person who has suffered, particularly violence of human design, will likely become part of the dominant discourse and growing diagnostic categories that define mental illnesses. The consequences of these assumptions have a direct impact on the social responses that young people receive from professionals, family members, and their other important social relationships.
Further, such omissions tend to benefit perpetrators and create less safety for children over all. For example, harassment and assault are commonly named “bullying” which minimizes the degree of violence as well as the harm done to the victim. Language is used for sexualized assault such as “date-rape,” presents the motive of rape as somehow connected to romance, as if it was a simple misunderstanding rather than a calculated attack. Beatings are often mutualized with terms like “conflicts,” which presents the victim as having a role in the conflict and being responsible, at least in part, for the corresponding solution. Young people who are in and from the foster care system are disproportionately assessed, diagnosed, and medicated; this is medicalization of human suffering that frequently minimizes the context of an individual’s life and circumstances.
There are a wide variety of ways that children and youth respond to violence and adversity, and rather than making an assumption that they passively “witnesses” or are “exposed” to violence, we speak of how they actively participate in attempts to end, protect from, interfere with, and withstand the violent acts of others.