12 Apr More than a fighting chance | Blanton
This post originally appeared as an op-ed in the Courier Journal on April 12, 2017.
By Eileen Blanton
Peace Education Program along with the Kosair Charities Face It Movement to end child abuse has joined partners across the city, state and nation this month to focus on child abuse prevention because we know that:
- Violence is not inevitable; It is preventable.
- Multiple forms of violence are interrelated.
- Violence prevention efforts that reflect the interrelated nature of the challenges will have a greater impact.
Fifteen years of research by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that while most people who are victims of violence do not harm others, some are at an increased risk of acting violently later in life. Interventions from caring adults can reduce that risk.
A middle school mediator and a member of Peace Ed, we’ll call “Johnny,” has a story that illustrates the importance and power of providing young people with the skills, safety, and support needed to overcome the negative impact of violence in their lives:
“In grade school I was very little and was bullied. In middle school my parents got a divorce. They had a custody battle over me and my brother. My little brother and I had to stay with my mom. She cared more about drugs and alcohol than us.”
“Back when I was in sixth grade, my father and I almost got into a fight in the front yard, with my mom and her mom egging me on. I thought little kids would agitate you, but they were worst. Living with my mom I was being not only a brother but also a mother and father to my little brother and didn’t get much sleep. I missed seven weeks of school and failed. Over that summer my dad won the custody battle. He got clean and sober after 13 years of drug addiction.”
“In seventh grade I didn’t know about peer mediation and I got in a fight. I gave the gentleman three chances to stop talking about my family. After the third chance, I snapped. I threw my desk across the room and put him in a rear neck choke. After a second I felt his knees get wobbly and let him go. I punched a metal door frame and broke my knuckle. After this I went to see my football coach to cool off. I got suspended for five days. These were the only days I missed, by then I was an A-B student and also played on a district winning football team.”
“In eighth grade my youth service center director asked me to be a peer mediator. I was iffy about it. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I am happy he wouldn’t take no for an answer. After my first peer mediation, I fell in love with it. Just the feeling of knowing I just stopped a fight and helped keep kids in my school, I thrive for that feeling…”
At pivotal points during his middle school years, the adults in Johnny’s life provided the skills, safety, and support that helped him reverse his personal spiral into violence:
- The community set high expectations for behavior and consequences for fighting with the opportunity to make amends through peer mediation
- Coaches, counselors, teachers and administrators created a positive school and community environment
- His father got clean and sober and started his own recovery process
- With mentorship, Johnny developed skills in self-control and nonviolent conflict resolution
Johnny’s story doesn’t tell about the other hidden factors that impact his resilience and the levels of violence in our community. Accessible quality health care, steady employment, economic opportunities, and strong neighborhoods all make for stronger families and children.
Peace Ed is honored to partner with the Face It Movement and so many leaders in our government, philanthropic, business, nonprofit, school, and neighborhood communities who recognize the interconnectedness of violence prevention and intervention. We thank all of you for giving our young people more than a fighting chance.
Eileen Blanton is the executive director of Peace Education Program.