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Finding our role in ending violence

November 25, 2015

Finding our role in ending violence

(As published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, November 25, 2015)

Peace is possible. I want our children — all children — to hold this belief as sacred, even as the trauma from the recent terrorist attacks in Paris continues to ripple.

Our outrage with such public and extreme acts of violence is justified. Our desire to bring to justice those who have committed these acts is understandable and efforts to prevent similar acts are commendable.

And yet, our collective response to private acts of violence — domestic and interpersonal — is far too muted.

On the surface, international terrorism and domestic violence are starkly different. But they are similar, too.

We rightly hold terrorism to be an extreme form of violence, but is the physical and sexual abuse perpetrated within families really less extreme?

While terrorist attacks generally take place on a greater scale, they are relatively infrequent. Domestic violence occurs in our communities every day. And, like terrorism, at its core is force used to damage, maim and kill people.

Given the well-documented rates of domestic violence, I realize that at school, my children, Zoe and Adam, inhabit classrooms, playgrounds and school buses with peers who are witnesses to, and survivors of, violence in their homes. Far too often, the suffering experienced by these children — and the adults in their homes — goes unnoticed, or worse, noticed but under-addressed. In turn, their trauma becomes the secondary trauma of others — children, teachers, co-workers and friends — who are affected by their pain.

This is why I want our children to recognize that we each have a role in ending violence by being agents for change.

I want our children to know that people who are hurt need support and safety. I want them to know that those who observe people hurting other people also hurt, on the inside. I want them to know that people who hurt others need to be held accountable and need to heal, as many are also survivors of violence.

And I want our children to know that there are people — like the staff and volunteers of organizations such as our own local Safe Passage — who work to stop the cycle of violence and the pain it creates.

While I struggle to find the words to teach our 9- and 6-year-olds about international terrorism, I can tell them that peace in our community is possible when we all claim our role in ending violence. This is the message my wife, Lori, and I will share with Zoe and Adam when the four of us participate in the 12th Annual Hot Chocolate Run to end domestic violence Dec. 6. The event helps fund Safe Passage which serves survivors of domestic violence, their children, friends and families.

While the 2015 Hot Chocolate Run is sold out, all are welcome to make a financial donation at www.hotchocolaterun.com.

To learn more about the issue, visit www.safepass.org. Also visit www.hmbnetwork.org, home of the Healthy Men and Boys Network, an organizational partner of Safe Passage committed to preventing and eliminating inequality and violence.

John Engel of Florence is a consultant and director of the Healthy Men and Boys Network. He can be reached through his website www.fatherhoodjourney.com.

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