Domestic Abuse: One Man's Story

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A man who admits that he used to beat his wife tells his story in his own words. Victims' advocates and civil rights leaders are meeting in Long Beach, Calif., to discuss how to stop rising abuse rates in African-American homes.

TONY COX, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Tony Cox in for Farai Chideya.

Today, domestic violence advocates and civil rights leaders are meeting in Long Beach, California. They are forging a new coalition to fight the alarming incidence of abuse in African-American families. According to the University of Minnesota's Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community, blacks account for nearly half of all intimate partner homicides - half.

Among those attending the conference is Warren Edwards. Now 51, and an Anger Management Counselor, he is no stranger to violence. Edwards abused former girlfriends, his first of two wives, and spent 10 years in prison for murdering a friend over an unpaid gambling debt. He started using violence as a young teenager crippled by low self-esteem. This is Warren Edwards in his own words.

Mr. WARREN EDWARDS (Anger Management Counselor): I can remember one day in junior high school I was dating a young lady. And I always wanted to be in control of the relationships that I was involved, whether it would be with male or female, you know, friendships or what have you.

And she was checking out this other guy and I got really upset about it. And I remember squeezing her arm and telling her, if I ever catch you looking at another guy again, we're going to have some serious problems, you know. And that was a threat, you know. And she was a fair skinned young lady, and so it bruised her arm and she was afraid of me after that.

I've been married two times. I'm happily married. I'm happy to report for 14 years - going on 15 years at this time - things have really blossomed for us in our relationship. But my marriage prior to this one, you know, I was really still in that abusive mode. I was, you know, it didn't take much to set me off. You know, it created huge problems in my first marriage and we just didn't make it, you know.

There was a nightspot in Minneapolis that I used to frequent, I mean, I sold a lot of drugs out of there. There's a lot of bad things out of that place. And an elderly guy who frequented the place, and he's always sitting there and he's quiet and observing, I guess. And he said to me, he said, you know something young man? I said, you talking to me, Pops? He said, yeah, I'm talking to you. He said, you know, you deserve better than this, you know. Why don't you just give yourself a break?

It was a combination of what he said and how he said it. But the light really came on for me that day, because no one pretty much ever said to me, you know, it's always been negative things. This man who I know, who was up in this spot all the time and he'd seen my activities and, you know, I guess he saw some good things in me, too.

And I'm heading home and I'm thinking about what this man said to me. And I said, wow, I deserve better. You know, I'm going through the neighborhood where I'm wreaking havoc at and I see people addicted to drugs. And I'm feeling some pain about the things that I do in my life, you know. And at this moment I'm not really happy about who I am. I messed up. I call my partner up and I told him, I said, man, I can't do this anymore. I quit.

I am a counselor and I work with men who have been through the same or similar things that I've been through in life. Right now, I'm working with the population of men that are rendering society from a prison environment.

I think most recently I had an experience with a guy, he's been home probably about 90 days now. I remember him finding himself by saying to me, Warren, you mean to tell me that I wasted 35 years of my life running from myself when I could have done this all along maybe if this was mentioned to me. And what I had said to him was something really simple.

And I don't know why it's always the simple things that turn the light on for us. It was what was said to me. You deserve better. This man, this tough guy, this hardcore violent man, sat in the group amongst 20 other men and he cried like a baby. I wasn't the greatest parent that I needed to be. I have an older child out there that's - I guess, he's pretty close to 40 years old now. I've only seen her one time while she was - while she was an infant, probably about two months old.

It would be one thing that I would like for her to think about if she's out there listening, forgiveness. I want her to know that I've always loved her and I always will. We are a part of one another's common thread, father and daughter. And that, you know, because of what I went through, you know, I can't use that as an excuse, but I do ask for her forgiveness, you know, and I hope that she can find it in her heart so that she can continue to move on with her life.

COX: Again, that was Warren Edwards, now a domestic violence counselor.

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