Bel Air center offers help to abusive men

August 14, 1994|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

Each time Reggie became physically abusive, his wife bTC begged him to get professional help. But it took 15 years and a collapsed marriage for him to realize that he needed to change his behavior.

"I always thought it was totally OK to control my wife. After all, I was the man of the house," says Reggie, who asked that his last name not be used.

He said some men grow up believing that women should be subordinate to men and that men must be tough and never show emotions.

"Violence is part of being a boy," he said. "As a boy, I played football, boxed and played war. And later, as a Marine, I was trained to be a killer, a tough guy."

Today, he knows that abuse is a learned behavioral choice and that love doesn't mean controlling people.

Reggie,38, attends the abusers' group at the Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center Inc. (SARC) in Bel Air.

The meetings are part of a 26-week educational and counseling program for abusive, violent men.

Most group members attend the meetings under court order. Reggie came to SARC on his own, seeking to learn how to control his violent behavior after his wife left him.

"I'm not a bad guy. I could be kind and loving and caring. But when my wife and I got into an argument and I didn't get my way, I would get so angry I just had to push her or slap her around," Reggie says.

He says he never injured her, but that his behavior inflicted emotional wounds.

"Sometimes it was enough just to stare at her. I didn't need to break her ribs to instill fear," Reggie says.

"Whenever we had a big fight and I shoved her, I would feel guilty and regret having been violent, and I would try to make it up to her and promise never to do it again -- and I really meant it at the time," he says.

Months would go by peacefully, he says.

Then a silly argument -- over what color to paint the kitchen, for example -- would again trigger violence.

"I know what I did was wrong, and I finally wanted to change that," says Reggie.

SARC's group counseling has taught Reggie to be aware of his anger.

"Abuse comes from not being able to control anger. I've learned that, instead of trying to control my wife, I need to control myself," says Reggie. "I need to look at the root of my anger -- do I feel threatened, insecure, jealous?"

He says that by learning to understand himself, he can learn to control his anger.

Reggie hopes that ultimately he can change his behavior forever and that one day he and his wife and their four children can be a family again.

"Maybe it's too late for that," he says. "But at least I've learned that hitting a woman is wrong."

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