Published in the Express-News, 31 March, 2019

When I heard about being one of the San Antonio Peace Laureates of 2019, I did a little research. I found that a peace laureate is “(One) who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Often referred to as a private matter, violence in family, in relationships or in dating is definitely damaging to fraternity between people, hence nations. If there is violence in our homes, it doesn’t stay there. It spills over in waves in schools, communities, states and nations, ultimately leading to war. If we are to be a Compassionate City, state, nation or planet, it behooves us to consider the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In Texas, we have some of the highest statistics of child abuse, domestic violence and domestic violence murders in the U.S., according to studies by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clearly our homes are boot camps of violence.

It’s imperative that anti-violence work intersects with groups addressing gun violence. The warring begins in our families, but it has global implications.

The converse is also true: Peace in our homes births international peace. It promotes humanitarian work, stability and justice by means of diplomacy and international agreements.

In my own family, my parents had the wisdom to gather us children to apologize for having used so much corporal punishment in their misguided efforts to “discipline” us. You cannot imagine how transformative and affirming that felt for us, as they lovingly humbled themselves before us and asked for forgiveness for not knowing any better. They told us they blindly followed the traditions set forth by their parents and didn’t know they needed to learn how to parent correctly and effectively.

As their grown child, this grounded me in the deep love I longed to feel, live and share with them. My faith in God was strengthened, fortified with the love of my parents, rooted in the spirit of our Creator.

Many believe that corporal punishment, when used by loving parents, is a good, or at least harmless, disciplining technique. However, an overwhelming body of research shows that even mild and moderate corporal punishment has harmful effects. The reality is that most parents hit their children in a fit of rage. Studies have found that the majority of child abuse cases arise in situations where the abuser intended to discipline the child.

We at the P.E.A.C.E. Initiative have imagined living in a world without family violence by working together to create programs such as FACT (Family Assistance Crisis Teams), in which since 1990 over 3,000 participants have been trained to work alongside police officers to help respond to domestic violence.

We can see compassion growing in our city. Now more than ever, a friend, neighbor, relative, co-worker or even a stranger is more apt to get involved on behalf of someone who’s living with violence.

We call this bystander intervention — people addressing the problem in spite of being afraid, knowing it’s a risk to get involved. They’ve learned that facing family violence, not looking the other way, and definitely not victim-blaming are required to stop it. They are motivated to step in because it’s the right thing to do.

I believe such actions are the result of 40-plus years of many of us planting seeds of concern, knowledge, courage and ánimo through educating San Antonio about how violence can devastate generations of familias.

And familia is the fabric of our society. If it’s fragile, fragmented and failing, then so are we all. Our gente are clearly beginning to understand the need to turn away from violence and address their needs with compassion.

Patricia S. Castillo, LMSW, is the 2019 San Antonio Peace Laureate. She is executive director of the P.E.A.C.E. Initiative, a nonprofit organization established in 1990 to address the issues of domestic violence in the city.

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