Sticks, stones and broken bones: Why words matter in domestic abuse

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During the mid-199os, I lived and studied theology in the USA where I encountered the historic peace and justice tradition of Christian faith, most notably the Mennonite Church. In a country of gun-related violence, the Anabaptist witness to the peace and non-violence of Jesus Christ made a powerful impression on me. Returning to Australia, I became the assistant minister at St John's Anglican Church in East Sydney, which comprises the inner-city district of Kings Cross. Our church's ministry to street-involved people centred around Rough Edges, a street-level cafe and community centre.
I was pleased to discover that an Alternatives to Violence programme formed part of the volunteer training that I enthusiastically joined. The programme was more confronting than I-and most participants-imagined. I have rarely been exposed to physical violence in my life. I am very fortunate. I have only once used my fists in anger and somehow avoided fights throughout my working-class schooling in western Sydney. I did not consider myself a violent person and secretly believed I did not need alternatives to violence.
In the programme, I was confronted by my violence with words. Blessed with a quick wit and a sarcastic sense of humour, I was shocked to discover how harmful my words could be. Clever phrases-not closed fists-was the way I inflicted harm and hurt on others. Twenty years after this humbling discovery, I am still conscious-as a lecturer, pastor, husband, father of teenagers, and friend-how my words can demean, dismiss, and even devastate the people I love. This article is written particularly for those, like me, whose violence is verbal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages13
JournalSt. Mark's Review: A journal of Christian thought and opinion
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


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