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Sticks and Stones

Briefing: We all know the playground taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. That is so not true, it is a total lie.

Dispatch (Assignment): Read Psalm 58.

On the Street: Everyone is different. No two people react to a situation the exact same way. They may take the same actions during an event but they will internalize the experience differently. Speech is no different. Hurtful words roll off some people’s backs but cause great wounds to others.

When I started in law enforcement I worked an area that was populated by people who were living at or below the poverty level. Most nights, on patrol, we would spend the majority of our time going from one domestic violence call to another. A large percentage of these family violence calls ended up with someone going to jail. One night I was sitting at home watching TV. I remember watching a show where someone was talking about having to endure verbal abuse most of their life. I laughed to myself thinking if the only abuse they have to endure is verbal then they are doing good compared to the people who live in my beat.

Any kind of abuse is wrong but I never considered how destructive verbal abuse can be. In a recent article by Marissa Higgins on, titled, “5 Signs You’re Experiencing Verbal Abuse, Because It’s Just As Harmful As The Physical Kind”, it states, “one in four women report experiencing verbal abuse in a relationship. Studies show that experiencing verbal abuse can contribute to the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same way surviving physical or sexual abuse can.”

People who face verbal abuse can relate to David’s words in verse 4, “Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be”. No amount of yielding or acquiescing will stop the venom of their speech. The attacker is so intoxicated by the perceived power of their onslaught that nothing will restrain their attack.

Hear David’s prayer, “Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions! Let them vanish like the water that flows away, when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted.” We must pray that when the abuser draws the bow of their tongue, their arrows/words will lose their power to harm.

So what is a peace officer to do when confronted with a domestic violence call where the only abuse is verbal? The most obvious and effective tool is the example of David, to pray. Take the name of the abuser and the abused and pray for both of them. Aside from that there are resources and safe havens for the abused and places for counseling for the abuser. Refer them to a local church pastor for guidance.

This is one of the reasons it is vitally important to get to know the church pastors in your assigned areas. See if they would allow you to carry their cards or phone number for people who are hurting and in need of direction. The local church has a duty to love well, to clothe the naked, feed the poor, visit those in prison, and help the lost find their way.

Investigational Resources: Look in your community for churches, safe houses for the abused and organizations that provide free counseling. Look online and ask other officers for suggestions and locations.

Officer Safety Principle: Don’t just answer the call and leave. Have the compassion of Christ, follow through, pray and help where you can. This is being salt and light in dark places. The last verse of Psalm 58 is, “Then men will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.”

from Psalms Through the Eyes of a Cop, Volume 1
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
Click here to check out the entire Through the Eyes of a Cop series!