Letter - Defining assault

ANNA READ
Last updated 08:16 08/01/2013

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Regarding Horror times for hospital staff. (January 5), no hospital worker should have to suffer verbal or physical abuse, but to call verbal abuse an assault is very misleading. Unpleasant as it is, it is not an assault.

This is like the survey done some years ago which proved that a very high number of women had suffered domestic violence - probably one in three - but as a raised voice was classed as violence, this was hardly surprising. I am only surprised that it wasn't three out of three.

One year we were told of the high number of fatal workplace accidents, but again the number wasn't surprising when we learnt that this included incidents such as an old lady who fell down steps at a garden centre, broke her hip and died some weeks later, a man who ignored the illuminated warning signs at a major roadworks and hit a heavy piece of machinery and a contract painter who had a heart attack.

By these standards, the death of almost anyone who doesn't die in their own home can be classed as happening in a workplace.

I seem to remember that workplace fatal accidents somehow came to include any workplace death, even if it wasn't the person's own workplace, so as to boost the numbers.

Many of us will remember the notorious one-in-three child-sex-abuse study, which classed a child accidentally walking in on a naked adult or finding dad's stash of Playboys as sexual abuse. What an insult to genuine victims.

If a term is broadened too much, it inevitably weakens it. If verbal abuse is assault, then everyone has been assaulted at some time and, if everyone has, nobody has.

Assault is much too serious to be treated like this. If someone who has been shouted and sworn at is an assault victim, we will come to think that a reported assault could well be that and not take it anything like so seriously as we would a physical attack.

ANNA READ

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