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Shadow of a man with a clenched fist in domestic violence scene
Illustration by helga.xorimarko on Depositphotos

I suppose that it is rare for a man cured of toxic masculinity to admit that he was the domestic enemy of the house. 

I wish I could say that I had grown mature enough to just “get it” without having ever harmed a soul. Regretfully, I didn’t fully understand it until after I had committed grave harm. 

It was at my lowest that I realized I needed to change my ways. Reading books, taking courses and conducting research that eventually led me to co-author the book, “Biblical Solutions for Domestic Violence,” enabled me to speak competently against domestic violence.

The facts are that both men and women abuse their partners, though women are disproportionately affected. The perpetrators are often survivors of domestic violence themselves. Most assaults on women are committed by someone they know; and, on average, 24 people per minute experience intimate partner violence. The problem is so profound, one in four American women are subjected to domestic violence at some point in their lives.

For the most part, domestic violence is a learned behavior — we know that hurt people tend to hurt others — and is therefore often generational.

Within the household, the cycle of domestic violence is broadly predictable: First is the honeymoon phase, where everything is lovely. Then comes the tension phase — perhaps the man expects the woman to be able to read his mind and know what he wants without verbalizing it. Or maybe he tends to blame others, usually the partner in his life, for all of his shortcomings. 

There is a natural tension in the first two years of cohabiting. This is the period where the couple subtly defines how to divide the domestic tasks. In a healthy relationship, a partnership is developed and tasks are shared. No one is “the boss” dominating the other, but a cooperative dynamic is created through various forms of respectful communication. 

However, in situations where hostility or dominance become the norm, tension can escalate into violence. Violence can range from insults and belittling to pushing and shoving, destroying personal property and physical assault. This is where many men — and some women — are in denial: Verbal abuse can be just as damaging to one’s emotional center as physical abuse, thus it is a form of domestic violence. Like many men, I had no idea. 

The next phase is the make-up period. The man pleads for forgiveness and profusely apologizes. Trauma bonding, in which the couple enables one another in toxicity, occurs, and the honeymoon phase obtains again, beginning the cycle anew — that is until someone, usually the woman, is seriously injured, if not worse.

Men don’t have to be taught patterns of abuse before we commit to them. We just seem to have internalized them somehow and consistently play them out. Abusive personality traits tend to be the jealous, possessive, angry and/or controlling types. Triggers for violence tend to be disputes over money, drugs, sex, infidelity — real or imagined — and children.

The courses I’ve taken taught me the variety of valid reasons why women stay in such relationships. I’ve learned to never ask why and to never judge, but to simply offer support, and believe and validate their stories. 

In an effort to promote a culture that rejects domestic violence and all of its precursors, I don’t laugh at gender-demeaning jokes about women. When foul-mouthed guys in the locker room refer to women in ways that are not becoming, I remind them, in front of everyone else, that our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts are all women. And as such, we should respect other people’s mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts. If we’re going to be intolerant of anything, it should be the disrespect of the gender that gave us all life.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Delbert Williams is a writer, who holds a B.A. in communication studies from California State University, Los Angeles. He cares about empathy and healing to solve America's many divisions, hate and injury. He is incarcerated in California. Delbert Williams is a pen name.