Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today we’ll find out what the difference is between assault and battery. I’m hoping that you’re asking this because you’ve been watching Law & Order or CSI and you keep hearing these terms thrown about and so it’s got you curious.
I am hoping that you have neither committed assault nor battery. I hope that later in the post I’ll be able to convince you of the benefits of living a non-violent life.
Understanding the difference between assault and battery is quite simple even if it is confusing. I say confusing because to most of us assault means an actual physical attack of violence. And indeed, the Oxford online dictionaries define assault as: make a physical attack on: Though Merriam Webster defines assault as: a violent physical or verbal attack
But let’s get to understanding what an assault is in the legal sense at least as far as it goes in the United States.
An assault is a crime causing the victim to fear physical violence without the actual physical assault happening. Let’s use an example. If I’m carrying a big steel pipe in my hand and I threaten to hit you with it that is considered assault. I didn’t hit you, but I threatened physical violence. I can do it without a weapon, and in many jurisdictions committing assault with a weapon is a more serious crime.
So assault is not only the threat of violence but there must usually be an indication that the probability or possibility of that threat being carried out is reasonable.
Battery on the other hand is the actual physical violence. If I threaten to hit you and then hit you with my fist I have committed assault and battery. If I just come up to you and hit you with my fist without saying anything I have committed battery but not assault. Usually, though you’ll want to confirm with your lawyer.
In any event, when committing either assault and battery or assault or battery you make things worse as a criminal act if you use weapons.
At the end of the day just don’t commit assault or battery unless you or someone you love or are trying to protect is in imminent danger of violence.
Why? Because I believe that violence carries heavy karmic weight. If you’ve ever been in a fight you know the kinds of physiological responses that the body builds up. Adrenalin, bad thoughts and other responses are like pollution that then takes time for you to get rid of. And I’m certain that those kind of physiological responses harm the body. And the more violence you live with or commit the more damage you are doing to yourself.
The Buddha spoke about a way to live an authentic, deep and simple life that I think we could do well to adhere to as best we can.
It is called the Eight Fold Path. In a nutshell the Eight Fold Path is made up of 1. Right View, 2. Right Intention, 3. Right Speech, 4. Right Action, 5. Right Livelihood, 6. Right Effort, 7. Right Mindfulness and 8. Right Concentration.
All eight of these paths could be argued to speak to living a life of non-violence. But there are a few that are specific to living non-violently. Right Speech – Do not speak ill or in anger. Do not assault anyone as in the legal definition above.
And of course, there is Right Intention and Right Action which both encourage non-violence intentions and actions.
And let’s not forget Right Livelihood which would steer us away from making a living from any violent methods such as slaughterhouses or trading in animals and animal parts as well as pimping others or abusing anyone.
Whether or not you are Buddhist or care to be, I still find the Eight Fold Path to be a helpful guideline in living an ethical and non-violent righteous life.