Special Assignment

Man formerly involved in abusive relationship speaks out to help stop the violence

CREATED Feb. 11, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Chad from Milwaukee knows he hasn't always been a good person.

"You just want to have the upper hand, the louder voice, the harder hit," he explains.

Chad is thankful he got help when he did, especially when he sees cases like the Azana Spa shooting--where domestic violence led a husband to murder his estranged wife and two others.

"To think that could have been me, if I had not sought the help I needed," Chad says.

Chad values the time he spends at 'Beyond Abuse'--a group therapy program offered by the Sojourner Family Peace Center.

"You'll learn that changing is good, it really is nice," Chad says.

A lot has changed for Chad the past couple years--after being charged with domestic violence and forced to go to jail.

Benny Higgins is an advocate with the Sojourner Family Peace Center. He has been working with Chad for awhile. He says, "When he came here it was clear he was ready for change, and he was making changes, which is always good."

Chad was caught in a web of domestic violence since childhood--watching his own father.

"Lots of screaming, lots of yelling. I've seen police take my dad," Chad recalls.

It's behavior that Chad carried into his own adulthood. "You don't have people there teaching you how to properly address your anger."

"I knew what was wrong, but I didn't know what was right," Chad says.

Chad and his ex-girlfriend lived together for years. Most of those years were volatile. Chad recalls, "She tried to stab me multiple times, she attacked me in my sleep. I would get mad I would slap her, you know."

The abuse was multi-layered.

"A lot of name calling. Financial abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse," Chad says.

He admits he didn't know the true meaning of love.

"You don't be mean to someone you love. You don't treat someone you love like that," Chad explains.

It was the couple's daughter, and an incident involving Chad getting arrested at her school, that made him finally realize he had to change his life. "After seeing my daughter, seeing her react, and recalling that's the same way I react when I'm in certain situations, I knew exactly what she was feeling when I saw that, and I knew that's wrong."

Higgins works with many men like Chad. He says, "Most of them do want to change."

Higgins says it needs to start with men changing their mindset about relationships.

"We grow up learning how to be quote unquote 'strong men', which sometimes can get in the way of an intimate relationship," Higgins explains.

Higgins is also a former police officer, and has seen domestic violence span the city of Milwaukee.

"It's really all our issue," Higgins says.

He believes it helps for men like Chad to get together with each other and talk. "Men get to do what they didn't do growing up, and that is have a real, honest, non-threatening conversation."

Chad has also learned how to handle his anger in non-threatening ways.

"It's always nice to find somewhere to relax. It's nice to just sit and get away," he says.

It's a constant battle, overcoming his past, but Chad's trying to remain positive--as a role model and father to his little girl. "I feel I'm in a great place. I'm proud of myself, I'm doing the best I can to provide for my daughter and for myself."

It's not just men who abuse. Women can also fall into a path of domestic violence. 'Beyond Abuse' is a therapy program for anyone who wants to stop the cycle of abuse. There's a link on our website.