A Lesson From the Past to Help the Present

“Lateral violence” although it may seem like a technical term is a model that is almost older than you or I. For, lateral violence has had many different names in many different cultures. In Canada when speaking about the Native American tradition, it is called the “Collective Soul Wound” in most other countries it is called trans-generational violence. All these terms come down to the same thing. For they all bring about a discussion. This is…what is lateral violence, and how does it affect our people? There are two types of violence we use for this conversation: vertical and lateral. Vertical violence is one which is seen for example in the colonization process. This is where violence is used to overcome a population in order to gain strength and power over them.  Lateral violence can be seen once a people have experienced violence in a vertical way and then use this violence to hurt their own group. For example, ATSI people becoming emotionally or physically violent towards each other as a learnt behavior because of their experiences with violence in the past. This means that the past can sometimes dictate our present and define our relationships with our friends, family and loved ones. It becomes a vicious cycle from grandparents who are emotionally violent to their children who are then violent to their children.  So, we should not look at violence within our community as an individual problem but a problem within the community. Charly Waldorf (Emotional Well Being Team Leader at NPAFACS) believes that this theory can be a very interesting way of approaching his client work. “I look at emotional trauma or difficulties as unfinished business. I see the client in a holistic way, in that, I do not see them as an individual but I see them within their own field. This means that I try to understand where the client is coming from by understanding his or her circumstances,” explained Waldorf in an interview. What Charly is explaining is that we all come from a place of learnt behavior and within indigenous culture everyone has had an experience with the colonisation process and its ongoing affects. What is suggested to do is to find a way to heal this wound and come to terms with what we already know. Charlie explains that discussing this issue openly is the most important step to coming to terms with what has happened in the past and what is repeating itself still. “My overwhelming desire is to raise awareness of issues of trans-generational trauma because awareness is the key to change.”  What is important for everyone to recognize is the signs of lateral violence within the community. William Brian Butler author of Zero Tolerance to Lateral Violence explains that there are signs everywhere and it is important to act on them. Some of the signs of lateral violence within an individual can be non verbal innuendo, bullying, verbal affront, lack of openness etc where as within a group they can range from workplace bullying to the need to make someone prove their cultural worth.  All these are signs, explains Butler, that laterals violence is present and that it must be healed in order for the indigenous people to begin healing the wounds of the past and moving towards the future. This is not an easy process however and it is understood that for as many generations that the violence is perpetrated you need as many generations for the healing. This is why the emotional well being team would like to start the healing process now by opening a dialogue with all those interested in discussing the issues of lateral violence and the healing of our community.



Leave a Reply


captcha *