What makes us vulnerable?

by Anna

Vulnerability is to be exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. (http://oxforddictionaries.com)

This is a recent healthcare related essay of mine that I would like to share.

What makes one person more vulnerable than another? There is a multitude of answers to this question. The first thing that comes to mind is old age closely followed by illness and then young children. But in actual fact, anyone could be “exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed” at any time during their life. This could be temporarily or lifelong. Accidents happen all the time. Think about this: one minute you are perfectly fine and in control of your life – the next minute you are confined to bed for the rest of your life unable to move. This is a harsh wake up and you wouldn’t want anyone to abuse that situation of yours by neglect or any other type of abuse.

Children are generally classed as vulnerable because they haven’t come to understand all processes of life yet and are very susceptible to outside influences and are therefore easily taken advantage of if someone would be inclined to do so. Those with mental health problems and certain disabilities as well as those with dementia and the like can be just as easily influenced by others and therefore also require a different kind of attention. Physical disabilities as well as old age can pose problems to the individual where they are unable to move properly to care for themselves. And as mentioned before, any illness will need more or less support by other professions which makes them vulnerable to a certain extend because they trust a higher authority and thus concede to their ideas and believes.

Vulnerability also extends to the inability to communicate properly. This, of course, could be due to a disability such as sight or hearing impairment but could also be culturally imposed by the mere inability to speak a language. Some people naturally assume that you are simpleminded or short-witted if you are unable to communicate equally and you are likely to receive some form of abuse in the lines of belittling or bullying and if the other person has racist intentions at heart they might even go a step further. I have been living in England for quite a few years now and my English was already quite good when I arrived. Still, if someone only knows that I am not English and meets me for the first time, the change of tone, the slower, simpler wordings I encounter are evident. But I have to admit how much I love to baffle them when I answer in perfect English as if I never spoke any other language 🙂

The question whether one gender is more vulnerable than the other is indefinite. Especially in a time and age where women strive for equality this question might possibly raise eyebrows but is still not less important. Generally, however, it would suggest that men have more muscle mass which makes them naturally stronger than women and therefore pose more of a threat leaving women in a more vulnerable position. But, incidences of women posing a threat to men are evident, but these are either over frailer and weaker men or together with threatening and intimidating behaviour play more on the men’s self-confidence and thus get away with the lack of natural muscle fibres. The answer is tricky and often it is the word of one man against one woman. Having encountered emotional abuse myself I know how much it plays with your mind and the way you perceive the world and yourself from thereon.

We are at any time in our life vulnerable in one way or another and we should bear this in mind because we all will at some stage be classed as vulnerable and require someone else to watch over us and care for us. If we are aware of this we will be much more inclined to help and deliver appropriate care to others around us who are in a vulnerable state. Together with a good portion of compassion we are on the right track.