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Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Bare Naked Part I … My Journey into Violence

There are many brave men and women working to end family violence. At Shout, we really do believe life is too short to be quiet, and we’re adding our voices to the cry for humanity.

The following is first in a three-part series. The first two articles chronicle one man’s journey from loving husband to violent abuser, and his road to recovery. He is astonishingly frank and refreshingly honest. It takes guts and we appreciate his willingness to share his story in the hope that someone somewhere may benefit.

The final article provides a glimpse into the generational cycle of abuse, and the consequences of silence.

If you are a survivor, an abuser, an enabler who doesn’t know how to speak up, or you’re simply someone who cares enough to listen, please join us.

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My Journey into Violence

You do not need to bleed to be humiliated and abused.

Experts define family violence as, “forcing someone to do something that they don’t want to do, be that by physical violence and threats of violence or by psychological, mental, sexual and economic abuse.”

I am a violent person.

Like many abusers, I never hurt anyone physically and therefore the very idea that I was an abuser seemed ridiculous, but it’s true. I caused great psychological harm to my former family. I didn’t need to swing a fist to hurt people. Angry rages, finger pointing and cursing were my tactics of choice.

Most abusers have a hard time looking in the mirror. People refer to violence as a physical act. When we think of domestic and family abuse we picture swollen arms and bruised faces, but we give a pass to angry rages, fits of screaming and passive aggression.

Abusers start their justifications with, “I never hurt anyone physically, and that means everything else is just fine.” I know because I did exactly that.

The Back Story

I moved to the U.S.A. in May 1983 in pursuit of a new love. I left my two children in South Africa, family, friends and an incredible career to continue a love affair with an American. I thought that by making such extraordinary sacrifices I would have proved my commitment and love, and naturally I’d be rewarded with respect and trust.

The reality was much different.

The first time I met her parents they greeted me with, “This is ridiculous. You must end this.” At the time I couldn’t understand the hostile reception. Remember, I moved heaven and earth to be here, to be with their daughter.

Soon I discovered that my new love had an unfinished relationship, which was truly offensive. We began to routinely argue. I was having difficulty finding a job, and my sense of independence and masculine pride were deteriorating. I started to question my decision to leave South Africa. I missed my children desperately, and the guilt of leaving them haunted me day and night.

The arguing continued to escalate and our disagreements were never private. With the ease of a radio jock, she broadcast everything to her friends and family. I felt naked: a grownup man skinned and vulnerable in front of his new world.

Things developed quickly. She fell pregnant within months of our reunion in the States. The wedding was private and conducted by a freelance Rabi. Just before we married, my soon-to-be mother in law came to visit and strongly suggested to her daughter that she abort our child. We didn’t, but that suggestion set the tone of my relationship with my in-laws.

The next few years were a whirlwind. I became Jewish; I changed my name and became an American Citizen, and we had another child, my dearest monkey. My eldest son, then only 12, came to live with us from South Africa. Welcome to step family hell. My wife and my son were at odds daily. They developed a deep and unmanageable disrespect and aversion for each other. After four years he asked to return to South Africa and I was devastated.

I lost my identity. I lost my self-respect. I lost control, and I couldn’t find that once proud, determined and loving man I had been. He was lost to me and in his place was someone I didn’t want to recognize.

I was angry and frustrated. I felt powerless and wanted to gain control of my life, of my deteriorating family. So what did I do? I started abusing the people I loved most. It was a slippery slope. The arguing, the finger pointing, the screaming, the angry silences-they became more frequent and more thunderous.

The irony of it—I really didn’t think it was my fault. I blamed my wife. I blamed her bad behavior, her lack of respect, her ability to push my buttons with just a look or turn-of-phrase. She wasn’t saying what I needed to hear. She wasn’t acting the way I needed her to act. She didn’t love me the way I needed to be loved. She didn’t trust or respect me, and the fact that I’d go into a rage, that I’d scream and curse, well, she deserved it. She provoked me. The more I hated myself, the more I believed it was her fault. My twisted mind easily passed-the-buck and I told myself, “The bitch is responsible.”

She came home from work one day and explained that she wanted me to investigate an organization called Men Stopping Violence (MSV). I was humiliated. Me? Violent? I only shout, call you names, I’ve never hit you.

It was only a few days later when I woke up and finally couldn’t face myself anymore. I hated the person I’d become. I no longer trusted or respected myself, how in the world could I expect anyone else to trust, respect or love me? She was right. I needed help. I decided to call MSV.

“Remember, she may say and do things that upset and challenge you, but she can’t make you attack her. The only person who can make you do that is you. The only person who can stop you is you.”- Men Stopping Violence

MSV was in fact created by people like me to curb violence against women.

Our support group had people from all walks of life: blue collar, corporate executives, fire fighters and people assigned by the courts. At first I felt out of place, like an interloper. There were men, the ones that immediately jump to your mind’s eye when we talk about domestic violence-the ones who punched their wives, kept their partners hostage by not allowing them to leave their homes, isolated them from friends and family and who withheld money. There were also men like me; men who beat their wives with words.

I didn’t understand violence. I couldn’t have defined it until I joined MSV. With their help and support I finally began to understand what I had become, and I discovered there was a road back to self respect, if I was willing to walk it.


Next Articles:

  • My Road to Recovery
    The successes and failures, an ultimate betrayal and a new life.
  • Enabling Violence from Generation to Generation
    This final article provides a glimpse into the generational cycle of abuse, and the consequences of silence.
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