Violence and the Soul
DOI link for Violence and the Soul
Violence and the Soul book
This chapter describes the harms of criminal violence that are not fully appreciated. After an overview of America’s wrongful violence problem, attention turns to what violence does to body and spirit. Survivor accounts reveal the emotional consequences of violence: numbness, fear, anger and pain. The accounts reveal more than this, though; they show harm to the person’s sense of identity and how the person fits in community. Survivors sometimes describe this as a harm to the soul. The soul is what allows persons to make close connections with others and find meaning in life. The soul helps persons belong, a fundamental human need. Violence attacks belonging.
The experience of violence raises questions about individual identity. Many Americans believe that personal identity is fully chosen, meaning that all persons should be held responsible for chosen actions, regardless of social context. This is the ideal of autonomous identity, seen in American culture and public policy. The experience of survivors of violence indicates that personal identity is significantly relational, however, meaning shaped by relationships with others, both chosen and unchosen. Appreciating the relational dimension of the harms of violence is critical to understanding the kind of justice we should seek in response.