The experience of a community characterized by violence: implications for nursing


Professor M Poggenpoel Department of Nursing Science Rand Afrikaans University PO Box 524 Aucklandpark 2006 Republic of South Africa


Social situations make a person vulnerable to mental illness These situations include circumstances such as poverty, family instability and inadequate nutrition A combination of these circumstances predisposes exposed people to developing unhealthy ways of coping with stress Violence is seen as a way of managing stress, but also as a factor causing stress An example of unhealthy ways of stress management in the current South African society is the violence that leads to unrest which has affected different communities in a short space of time The aim of this study was to explore the experience of a community exposed to violence and to identify implications for nursing An exploratory contextual study was undertaken with the purpose of generating meaning regarding the experience of a community characterized by violence The phenomenological method of interviewing was used to gather data The target population consisted of a township community of 228 000 Ten respondents were interviewed in total, selected by the convenience purposive sampling method through intermediaries The interviews were recorded on tape and later transcribed verbatim Data were analysed by the method of content analysis The results were centred on the respondents’ and their families’ experiences of violence since March 1990 The results indicated four types of experiences for all people exposed to violence psychological, spiritual, physical and behavioural experiences The experiences of interactions with the internal environment (psychological, spiritual and physical experience) were predominantly negative, except for only two positive spiritual experiences (improvements in the people's faith and in the employer–employee relationships) On the other hand, experiences of interactions between the internal and external environments, namely behavioural experiences, were both negative and positive The negative experiences included pretence, thuggery, scapegoating and harassment The positive experiences included solidarity, bravery and increased appreciation The presence of positive experiences in both environments brought about new insights, that is, that even though most of their internal environment and part of their external environment is bleak and hopeless, the victims of violence still have the will to survive and live a normal life like other people This positive attitude supplies the psychiatric nuse with a point of entry to bring about positive change that acts as a support for the community exposed to violence Possibilities of applying the results of this study in education, practice and research in the health field became evident