/ 11 March 2011

Study of psychological violence

Are you suffering from migraines? What about stomach problems, high blood pressure, asthma, chest pain or ulcers?

If you are battling with any of these health problems, take a minute, sit down and think about your working conditions because, say researchers from the North-West University, they may have been triggered by incidences of psychological violence at the school where you teach.

“People are more familiar with physical violence such as assault or vandalism, but teachers are often unaware that they are victims of psychological violence,” says Dr Tiaan Kirsten. Colleagues, managers such as the principal or officials of the department of education, parents or learners could be responsible for psychological violence aimed at educators.

Actions could include verbal or non-verbal abuse that could be emotionally taxing on the victim, intimidation, humiliation, blaming the victim for work-related problems, giving the victim more work than he/she can handle, attempts to ruin the victims’ reputation, malicious gossip, slander and teaching and cyber bullying.

Fellow researcher Jackie de Vos, a trained psychological counsellor, believes this type of violence could have a devastating effect on teachers’ health, triggering a long list of problems, including depression, anxiety and disrupted sleep.

In a previous study De Vos probed the characteristics and behaviour of educators and their bullies that may contribute to workplace violence. She found that teachers are mostly verbally abused by education managers and are often verbally and physically abused by colleagues and learners, severely traumatising victims.

She is now conducting a study to investigate how workplace violence affects educators’ physical, psychological and social health. “The risks involved in overlooking workplace violence in education settings could impact on teachers’ ability to perform their duties, resulting in lower pass rates,” says De Vos.

De Vos is looking for teachers to participate in her study. Anonymity is guaranteed. Primary and secondary school teachers who think they may be victims of psychological violence can contact De Vos on 072 435 8024 or email her on [email protected].