NOT LONG AGO JUAN AND CARMEN CAME TO SEE me to register for the baptism of their third child. I had officiated at their wedding 10 years before. When I asked them how they were getting along, Carmen (whose name, like the other examples in this article, has been changed to protect her privacy) responded, "Well, OK. We have our problems like any other couple."
That was a red flag and, as it turned out, a disguised call for help. I requested to talk to her alone. Amidst a flood of tears she recounted her pain. I asked her if she was suffering physical, emotional, economic, or verbal abuse and asked her to be specific. I learned that she had been hit a number of times and that her husband's verbal and emotional abuse and his control of her life had destroyed her self-confidence and self-esteem. She was a depressed woman without hope.
With her permission I interviewed Juan alone. I confronted him about his abuse, which, to my surprise, he admitted, albeit partially. I invited him to join our men's group to deal with his violent behavior, and I invited Carmen to enter our counseling program and join one of our women's support groups to learn about the dynamics of domestic violence and to grow stronger in dealing with Juan.
Juan failed to follow through with my offer of counseling-only about one in 20 male abusers changes his behavior--but Carmen did. In time she gathered the understanding and strength to confront her husband's abuse, and when he was unwilling to change, Carmen eventually freed herself from her abusive relationship. Now she inspires hope …