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Measuring attitudes, behaviours, and influences in inner city victims of interpersonal violence (VIVs) - a Swiss emergency room pilot study

Aristomenis K Exadaktylos1*, Anja Evangelisti1, Fiorenzo Anghern2, Ursula Keller3, Kathrin Dopke1, Annette Ringger2, Victor Jeger1, Heinz Zimmermann1, Urs Laffer2 and Allan Guggenbühl3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Emergency Medicine, University and University Hospital of Berne (Inselspital), Berne, Switzerland

2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Biel Hospital Centre AG, Biel, Switzerland

3 Berne Cantonal Educational Counselling, Berne, Switzerland

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Journal of Trauma Management & Outcomes 2010, 4:8  doi:10.1186/1752-2897-4-8

Published: 6 July 2010



Switzerland is confronted with the problem of interpersonal violence. Violence is in the increase and the potential for aggression seems to be rising. Observations by hospitals discern an appalling increase of the severity of the injuries. The aim of this study is to collect accurate information about the social environment, the motivation and possible reasons for violence. We also intend to investigate whether sociocultural, or ethnic differences among male victims exist.

Materials and methods

For the first time in Switzerland, this survey employed a validated questionnaire from the division of violence prevention, Atlanta, Georgia. The first part of the questionnaire addressed social and demographic factors which could influence the risk of violence: age, gender, duration of stay in Switzerland, nationality and educational level. Beside these social structural factors, the questionnaire included questions on experience of violent offences in the past, information about the most recent violent offence and intra and interpersonal facts. The questionnaire itself consists of 27 questions, translated into German and French. In a pilot study, the questionnaire was checked with adolescents for feasibility and comprehensibility.


69 male VIVs were interviewed at two hospitals in the Canton of Bern. Most of the adolescents emphasised that weapons were not used during their confrontations. It is astonishing that all of the young men considered themselves to be victims. Most of the brawls were incited after an exchange of verbal abuse and provocations with unfamiliar individuals. The rivals could neither be classified with the help of ethnic categories nor identifiable groups of the youth scenes. The incidents took place in scenes, where violence was more likely to happen. Interestingly and contrary to a general perception the offenders are well integrated into sport and leisure clubs. A further surprising result of our research is that the attitude towards religion differs between young men with experience of violence and non-violent men.


Youth violence is a health issue, which concerns us globally. The human and economic toll of violence on victims and offenders, their families, and on society in general is high. The economic costs associated with violence-related illness and disability is estimated to be millions of Swiss francs each year. Physicians and psychologists are compelled to identify the factors, which cause young people to be violent, to find out which interventions prove to be successful, and to design effective prevention programs. The identification of effective programs depends on the availability of reliable and valid measures to assess changes in violence-related attitudes. In our efforts to create healthier communities, we need to investigate; document and do research on the causes and circumstances of youth violence.