Gender Gender

Can violent men change?

I FOUND a letter in my mail box after my topic last week: “Why women stay in abusive relationships.” The author agreed with the points I raised and has prompted me to look at this week’s topic: Can violent men change? I will refer to the author as Betty.
Betty was head-butted, punched in the stomach, and thrown all across the room. Beaten while pregnant. The chances are that you know Betty. You may not personally know Betty, but you know someone who has been in a similar situation like her.
Betty might be in your social circle, or you might be one of your Facebook friends. You may have even scrolled past some posts about her beautiful kids, her glamorous home or her overseas holiday snaps and felt a pang of envy over her ‘perfect’ life.
Except that behind closed doors, life isn’t quite perfect. In fact it’s terrifying.
“On more than one occasion, my husband threatened to kill me should I leave him, he threatened my parents,” she says.
For around 15 years, Betty was in an abusive marriage. To use those words almost underplays the seriousness of what she lived through, because what Betty and her children experienced was nothing less than violently criminal.
Court proceedings are still underway regarding custody of their children and Betty can’t risk being identified, so I won’t share the details of specific incidents.
She does reveal that her husband, charming, generous and friendly in front of others rarely attacked her in public. There were occasions where he lost control, including once at a family wedding, but for the most part he appeared to be the textbook doting husband and father.
At a glimpse of what happened behind closed doors, Betty tells me she was once being beaten up while she was pregnant. She was head-butted, punched in the stomach, and smashed across the head.
As time went by, Betty became isolated from her friends and family. However, when his outbursts became so frequent that family members began to take notice, Betty was shocked at the reaction from her husband’s family.
“His family pulled away from me and the children and chose to support their relative, who they had witnessed being violent to us in the family home.
Now they expect to spend time with my children. “My kids don’t trust or like their grandparents for turning a blind eye, and I’m also very concerned about the children being in the care of people who turned a blind eye to domestic violence,” she says
Naively, I asked Betty why she didn’t leave her husband earlier; she explained that she didn’t want the fairy-tale marriage to shatter; and to admit that what looked like a perfect marriage on the outside was a lie.
“The reason why I didn’t leave earlier because I was scared to death of what would happen next. He made me feel so worthless. To have your husband beat you and tell you all the time how worthless you are, and how everyone hates you, is hard; I became so insecure, although before I met him I was a very confident and outgoing person.”
Half the time when these men snap, they do not even remember how badly they behaved. They do not realise how hard they hit your stomach, or how hard they smashed your head into the wall. There were many times where Betty thought the husband was going to kill her – all they have to do is hit you in the wrong place or if there’s a knife nearby, it can end in tragedy.
It took almost 15 years for Betty to finally leave her husband, a decision she made when she realised he was starting to direct his violence towards their children. Her only regret now is that she did not get out sooner.
“Once a man starts hitting you, there is no respect – they will never come back from that. And as much as they plead that they love you, they can never change. Women in these situations have to know: it is NEVER going to get better.
“Such violent men will only get worse so do not wait for years like me; whether it’s now when you seek refuge elsewhere or three years later, you will never be in a better situation than right now to walk away,” Betty says.
Betty, says abusive men do not change unless they (men) make a personal decision to do so. If not then a woman should make the decision sooner rather than later.
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