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Non-violent families needed for a brighter tomorrow

It is my view that the only long-term, effective, and permanent answer to the alarming increase in crime is increasing the number of non-violent families. The more non-violent families in a nation, the lower the crime rate will be.

Perhaps I should define”violent families”because many might be thinking that there are not that many violent families. We say it is only a few”bad apples”that spoil the entire basket of apples.

A violent family is not characterized by the possession of guns and the use of alcohol or illegal drugs. A violent family is one that routinely uses harsh methods of communication, is cold and indifferent, employs shame and shows disrespect. All violence starts in the hearts of individuals, whether it is verbal, emotional, or physical violence. The firing of a gun to kill someone first begins inside the brain of the one holding the gun. The use of violent words in a heated argument first starts silently in the frontal lobe of the brain where it is rehearsed over and over until it explodes into audible expletives.

It is also true that wounded individuals end up wounding others. If someone from the early ages of life to young adulthood constantly hears put-downs, harsh words, or observes a misuse of power, lots of hitting, fights, and even experiences neglect or abandonment, he or she is at a greater risk of becoming emotionally–and eventually physically–violent.

In 1998 I wrote in my article”Making a Non-Violent Bahamas”these words:”Nonviolence is a process. First of all, parents hold the primary key to a non-violent nation. It is in the home where children learn the first skills of non-violent or violent behavior. It is not in the church or school. It is not in the yard shooting marbles. It is not on the corner’s basket ball court. It’s in the home. Mothers and fathers bear responsibility for the present condition of our nation. Transforming violence to non-violence must begin with parents. Families form communities.”

The boiler room

It is my view that one reason we are having an increase in crime today is that 50 years ago or more, although our nation appeared peaceful, there were signs that the fabric of our society was being eroded. The foundation was being laid for today’s social challenges. There seemed to be a community spirit but when closely examined, there was too much unspoken pain, dysfunction, and emotional violence.

Teenagers were submissive but not equipped to face the challenges of the coming decades. The educational system was already showing signs of inadequacy by releasing into society hundreds of functionally illiterate youth through its social promotion practice. Teenage sexual promiscuity was already on the horizon. Adultery, divorce, and alternate lifestyles gradually became tolerable options, even among Christians.

As a nation, we ignored the needs of single families. We publicly decried adultery, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, even sometimes shaming the victim in public, but behind closed doors those who did the shaming where themselves involved in the abuse and causing the pain. But you never talked about it. It was generations of denial and blind servitude. It was decades of hypocrisy. The Bahamas was like a giant pressure cooker that did not have a valve to release the pressure while boiling. Thus, the built-up pressure in the pot caused an explosion–a social disaster. In other words, the violence being displayed in our country today did not begin in a vacuum. Nothing does. There was a genesis decades ago that was ignored by our community builders, perhaps because they were a part of it.

Strengthen our families

I hope you are beginning to understand why I believe that the first step in creating a non-violent nation is to build non-violent families. We have to start by educating our people how to be decent human beings and how to love. I also believe that through a government ministry, I call the Ministry of Family and Social Development, we can provide the necessary training and education. Communities should provide wholesome recreational activities for youth.

In 2001 I wrote that special training should be given to communities and churches to coordinate divorce recovery groups, incest survivor groups, young parenting groups, singles and married couples associations, support groups for men and reformed offenders committed to a nonviolent lifestyle. I believe that if we begin the process of education now, we will see the result within a decade or at least a generation. We can certainly have a brighter tomorrow. Let’s begin now.

Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and a board certified clinical psychotherapist(USA). Send your questions or comments to or call 1242-327-1980 or visit the website at

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