I remember him well. He struggled at first in the batterer intervention class. I believed he was trying. He wanted his partner to come back home. She had left him after he had been arrested for beating her. She was living with her parents. He was seeing their kids on infrequent visits. He wanted his family back. He knew he had to complete our class if he was going to have a chance to get what he wanted.
He was a charming, charismatic guy. He had a sense of humor that he used often to make us all laugh. People liked him. He expressed concern for others and tried to be there when others needed him. At the same time, he struggled to be accountable for his own cruelty in his relationship. He liked to blame his partner for his violence. He tended to make excuses for his violence. He was afraid that he was going to lose his wife and kids. He was not sure if he would have a reason to go on living if she ever decided to leave him for good. He was desperate to do what he had to do to get his family back. He had talked once in class about a heated argument with his wife because things were not moving fast enough for his liking. He just wanted her to come home.
I remember that uneasy feeling. He was saying what we wanted to hear, but it seemed there was something missing. I could not put my finger on it.
The weeks went by, and he improved somewhat. Slowly, he learned to talk about his behavior and the impact that it had on his wife and kids. He talked about the cruelty that he had experienced at the hands of his father...it was horrific. He was able to examine his behavior and talk about the beliefs, attitudes and adverse feelings that drove his cruel behavior. Finally, on his last day in class, he put it all together in a therapeutic letter that he wrote to his wife. The class applauded him for what he had accomplished in the class. While I agreed that he had come a long way, I remember that uneasy feeling. He was saying what we wanted to hear, but it seemed there was something missing. I could not put my finger on it. I hate that feeling. I told him there was more work for him to do. I reminded him that, as a graduate, he could come back for free for the rest of his life. I recommended it...he never did.
I remember my experience with this man. I wondered if I had done enough, if he had done enough, and if she and the kids were going to be safe. A few years later, I remember opening the paper. The headline is still emblazoned in my mind. She is dead, he is in custody.
It was my worst nightmare as a group facilitator. A stark reminder of the danger that is ever present. We owe it to those we serve to be the best we can be as lives literally hang in the balance.