Simpson case prompts some Maryland men to seek counseling for spousal abuse

June 24, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

An article in The Sun June 24 listed an incorrect telephone number for the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. Its referral service, identifying domestic violence centers across Maryland for victims and abusers, can be reached at 1-800-MD-HELPS 24 hours a day.

The Sun regrets the error.

At least two dozen men have sought counseling from Baltimore-area domestic violence centers in the aftermath of the O. J. Simpson incident, saying they need help to keep from abusing their partners.

Centers in Baltimore City and in Baltimore and Howard counties logged more than 25 calls between Monday and yesterday from men who identified themselves as abusers or potential abusers -- a tally that amounts to a month's worth of calls in four days.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

And workers at those centers attribute the sharp increase in voluntary referrals to publicity about the Simpson case.

"What they're seeing is, '. . . I could wind up killing my wife,' " said Bonnie Ariano, executive director of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center of Baltimore County.

Mr. Simpson has pleaded not guilty to the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, 35, and her friend Ronald Goldman, 25. The deaths came after at least one incident in which Mr. Simpson physically abused his ex-wife.

Since the case broke, domestic violence hot lines nationwide have received a flood of calls from women who fear they might be killed by their partners. Few centers have reported a rise in calls from men seeking to curb violent behavior.

Since Monday, however, the Baltimore County domestic violence center has received seven calls from abusers or potential abusers, an unprecedented pace for a center that usually gets about 25 such calls each month, said Ms. Ariano.

On Monday, the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County got six calls from men seeking information about its counseling program for abusers, and got four more on Tuesday. The center usually gets about two calls a week from men.

"They realize that they don't have to live like this anymore," said Judy Clancy, director of community outreach for the Howard County center. ". . . They can learn other ways of dealing with their relationships."

In Baltimore, the House of Ruth, which operates a domestic violenceprogram, got calls from six men from Monday through Thursday. That surprised workers, who said that only 22 men called for help in 1993.

"If I get one or two calls a week, that's a lot," said Jean Edwards, an administrative assistant for the House of Ruth's abusers' program.

Domestic violence programs in Anne Arundel, Harford, Carroll, Prince George's and Montgomery counties reported few or no calls from abusers or from those who feared they could become violent.

Nationally, officials at domestic violence groups were pleased to hear of an increase in calls from men in some parts of the Baltimore area, although they said they have not seen comparable increases nationwide.

Meanwhile, the Simpson case has become a topic of conversation among men already involved in domestic violence counseling programs, said a 49-year-old man who attends a program at the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County.

"We talked about it and said, 'Hey, that's scary,' " said the man, who asked that his name not be used. "There's a guy who went over the edge. We can't say that he's guilty, but it doesn't look good."

The man sought help after arguments with his wife turned into shouting matches, making him fear that he could become

violent.

"There are an awful lot of men who really want help," he said. "When you look in the mirror and don't like what you see, you do something about it."

The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence can be reached at 1-800-MD-ABUSE.

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