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♫ All I want for ♫ Christmas is… ♫

Forty years ago, my sons were young, bright, modest, and uncharacteristically wise beyond their years. When anyone asked what they wanted for Christmas, their stock answer was, “world peace.” Obviously, they’re still waiting.
Lest we dismiss their response as flippant, we should take a moment to consider what they’re wishing for. Maybe we can all do something to make their wish more likely to come true.

Undoubtedly, there are those who on a large scale wreak war on vulnerable others for only the most selfish and irrational reasons. There is little any one of us can do about that. Nevertheless, there is much we can do to create a foundation on which to build word peace.

Peace begins with safety. Feeling safe in the world, in our country, in our community, and in our homes is the foundation for broader peace.
As with any structure, however, faulty work, inferior building blocks at the bottom, and environmental stress may create cracks that radiate and create instability throughout the structure and all the way to the top.

Domestic violence is the crack in the world’s foundation that creates instability. As a society we still do not take domestic violence seriously. We are even less concerned about coercive control and emotional abuse.
England has criminalized coercive control. The United States has identified and studied Adverse Childhood Experiences for nearly thirty years, and in my community, we still can’t do anything about the child who is egregiously mistreated if he is not also physically abused. We do little for the woman who is trapped in a physically abusive relationship, even less for someone trapped and feeling unsafe because of emotional abuse and coercive control.

Years ago, for a research project, I collected data about domestic abuse and incarceration. I already knew that of the approximately 960 annual Protection from Abuse orders in our county, less than ten percent of the men who received them were referred to the batterer intervention program in our community. Yet on that single day, ten percent of the 1149 men in our county prison had already been referred to our program. When I tried to discuss this with the prison authorities, their reaction was to reply with deliberate nonchalance, and I paraphrase, “Yes, of course. No news here. Nothing to see.”
Now there is programming in the prison, though by far, most of the men who are abusive to their intimate partners or families never see the prison. Rather, most of the men who make homes and lives unsafe are never reported or apprehended or incarcerated.

Our mission, then, is to work for world peace by building and strengthening a solid foundation in individuals’ lives. That means we have to value safety itself. Especially safety in the home. Even more importantly, as individuals and as a society, we have to value and provide safety for each of us and the most vulnerable among us.

We must take seriously the fact that my sons and the rest of us cannot have world peace until we have assured individual safety in our lives.
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