EPPN: Breaking the Cycle of Violence in Our Communities

March 11, 2014

Breaking the Cycle of Violence in Our Communities

Violence in America has reached epidemic proportions. In 2010 alone, 16,000 persons died through homicide, and 38,000 committed suicide. During the first decade of the 21st century, 335,609 Americans were shot and killed, a total that exceeds the population of St. Louis, MO, Pittsburgh, PA, or Orlando, FL. Each year, an average 237,868 persons in the U.S. are victims of rape or sexual violence, while over 3.2 million young people suffer from bullying . The statistics are both disturbing and overwhelming, and it's difficult to know how to address such a monumental problem.

"Breaking the cycle of violence" is a commonly used phrase, but what does it really mean? This phrase might bring to mind peace talks in the Middle East, nuclear nonproliferation, or universal background checks on firearms. While these are the better known examples, the definition of violence expands beyond these causes to also include bullying, sexual assault, domestic violence, hate crimes, suicide, and many other types of violence.

These forms of violence that can become a vicious cycle often begin within our communities and our homes. While policy is a useful tool in breaking the cycle of violence, we must also consider personal responses that we can undertake this very moment to supplement and reinforce official legislation.

The first place to begin is at home. What movies, television shows, or video games are accessible in your household? Do these media lift up peaceful values or do they glorify a culture of violence? We can't protect our children from all forms of violent media, yet it's important to have an honest conversation with them about the violence that they witness onscreen or in everyday life. Even if you do not have children, you can cultivate a peaceful household by using nonviolent communication with your partner, parents, or roommates.

Beyond the household, there are many ways you can address the culture of violence at the community level. Getting to know your neighbors, hosting community forums on violence prevention, and cooperating with local law enforcement to educate and include young people in preventing crime are all excellent ways to become involved. Engage your congregation in a service for nonviolence, attend Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Episcopal National Gathering to Challenge the Epidemic of Violence on April 9th -11th, 2014, or join faith leaders in a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend on March 13th -16th, 2014. The more you work together with your neighbors to raise awareness and promote open dialogue on violence prevention, the stronger your effort will be.

Episcopal tradition calls us to oppose violence at every level of common life, and to build just and nonviolent relationships throughout the world. Next time you hear the phrase "breaking the cycle of violence," remember that you have the agency to break the cycle right now through monitoring media, building relationships, raising awareness, and communicating carefully. Only then can the "cycle of violence" be countered by a "spiral of peace." This spiral begins in your home and moves outward, circling family, neighbors, and your world community in compassion, education, and awareness, so that one day "violence shall no more be heard in thy land."