Preventing violence is the end goal of many programs. But if we only focus on victims and perpetrators with the limited resources available it will be an important, but limited approach.
As a society we need to continually examine and converse about our beliefs and circumstances that perpetuate violence in our homes, workplaces, communities and world.
Violence prevention begins in our homes – what we model for our children regarding respectful relationships and not hurting others is crucial. In modern life it is difficult to always be sensitive to our children’s emotional needs when we ourselves are stressed or upset.
I wish we had ready access to family support mediators who would provide non-judgmental and non-punitive help. Once when I was having a particularly bad day I called my friend, she came over and helped calm me and my son. I was so grateful and her kindness helped strengthen me as a parent.
Violence prevention depends on our personal accountability. It is difficult to face our own capacity to hurt with our words or actions. When we are aware of our physical and mental reactions we can slow things down. We can take responsibility for self-soothing and choose to stay open to other interpretations of situations. This way we will be more skilful and avoid causing harm to the ones we love.
Abusers often isolate their victim from social supports. This increases risk and lack of support creates a further barrier to escape. If we are silent and look away, then we have reinforced that nothing can be done and no one cares. Instead, we can befriend our neighbors and offer non-judgmental support. As families we need the courage to ask and offer help to both parties.
Whenever there is shame, blame or judgment neither the victim nor perpetrator will feel safe enough to seek help. We can practice and teach people the way of compassion for oneself and others. If we are strong in our belief in human capacity to learn, grow and be responsible then we can meet people where they are and provide concrete support when they stumble, always working towards verbal and physical non-violent ways to resolve conflict and healthy ways to address stress and fears.
Social and economic inequalities are close companions to violence. The set up seems to be that more entitled people demand what they think they are owed, even if it is not in the other person’s best interest and when they don’t get with they want, the likelihood of abuse increases. This is true in families, work places, communities and nations.
To address inequality, as communities we can support equality of opportunity, acceptance of diversity, early and appropriate responses so that victims and perpetrators have options and effective support and intervention when violence occurs. As a caring society we can support realistic welfare rates and wages, daycare and education to ensure there are viable options for victims fleeing violence.
The good news is violence in intimate relationships is no longer a secret. Together we can find workable solutions. The result will be safety and success for everyone.