Stopping Violence Before it Starts

  • October 29, 2015

A visit to any prison in Honduras will leave the faces of hundreds of young men burned in your memory. Their journeys to jail cells are as varied as their faces, but many have a couple of things in common. First, many are members of the gangs that have infiltrated much of Central America, and, second, many come from difficult family situations — everything from absent to abusive parents.

And these two things are related. The World Bank affirms that “children and youth who experience or observe violent behavior in the homes are more likely to engage in violent behavior themselves” — such as joining gangs.

The tragedy of violence in Honduras makes it imperative for us to find ways to stop the cycle of violence in families and the nation as a whole.

That is exactly what the Association for a More Just Society is doing. Through its “Strong Families” counseling program, AJS psychologists and community workers bring together at-risk families to learn about how to communicate and discipline without violence. And the program is reaping results.

Last week, 49 families graduated from Strong Families, and their transformation is incredible.

Take Cesar Canales  — he is a single dad raising his 10-year-old son Rolando. He admitted that before the training he “punished his son before he really knew what happened and … humiliated him in public.” He even admitted to getting violent at Rolando’s school once when he had a problem with Rolando’s teacher — just the kind of example that could make Rolando seek out violent solutions to problems in the future. But, thanks to a series of trainings and therapy with AJS psychologists, Cesar discovered new ways to deal with conflicts with his son. “I learned to listen and to be patient with him,” Cesar said. “I’m now close to my son … I’m a friend to him.” Breaking cycles of violence in homes and in nations is not an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight, but in the faces of the 49 families who graduated last week, AJS sees hope for a peaceful future.

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