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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 21, 2005

Human Rights, Religion, and Democracy

Rebecca Whisnant
Pages 225-236
DOI: 10.5840/socphiltoday2005213

Rethinking Nonviolence
Intimate Abuse and the Needs of Survivors

The paper considers nonviolence, not merely as a set of tactics for demonstrations and protests, but as a broad ethical ideal governing attitudes as well as conduct. I argue that the meanings of nonviolence—its relationship to personal and political honor and integrity—may differ with one’s level of privilege and social authorization to employ violence. Furthermore, the moral and attitudinal commitments prominent in some strands of nonviolence theory are in some ways at odds with the needs of survivors of violent abuse—particularly of the kinds typically committed by men against women and children in intimate contexts. There is thus an apparent tension between some of the commitments of nonviolence theory and our obligation to demonstrate solidarity with survivors. Recognizing and resolving this apparent tension is a necessary further step in the development of nonviolence theory.