My mother whipped me: Violent men were often damaged as children. How can they reform? Angela Phillips reports

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ted, encased in a motorcycle suit, blond hair flopping in his eyes, seems a mild and inoffensive person. But when he told me that he had slapped his wife a few times, I wouldn't have liked to have been in her shoes. He is a big man, with big hands. When it happened the second time, she told him to sort himself out or leave.

'I looked everywhere, but nowhere offered anything useful. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous because I had been drinking heavily, but I knew that drink wasn't the problem. My wife went with me to a psychiatric clinic and they told her it was her own fault. I wanted to stay with her. I don't know whether she really wanted to stay with me, but within a week she showed me the door.'

There was another fight, this time on the doorstep, his wife ran away and he was arrested. When he got home his wife and two children had gone. 'I opened the door and the silence hit me. They had all gone. I'd lost my kids. My girls were the only two things I had ever done right in my life. Every day I woke up knowing they weren't there.'

Tears gather in his eyes and he makes no attempt to stop them, or change the subject. What he has learnt by attending group counselling sessions at the Everyman Centre is that emotions that are not released build up and turn into something far worse than tears.

'I've always been frightened of showing my emotions. When I was a kid, if I came in crying, my mother would clout me and send me back out to hit them back. She whipped me with a fishing rod, dented baking trays, if she could have thrown a knife I wouldn't be here. When I was older I would pick fights. That's what men did.'

At first, the counselling sessions were not easy for him. 'In the group, the worst thing was letting my guard down. I had never cried in front of another man. That was very hard, very hard, in the past if I felt like crying, I would just change the subject. Having another man reach out and hold my hand, that made me feel very apprehensive. I had to decide whether to let a crack appear or whether to let go and open the floodgates.

'After about a month in the group I realised that the other chaps were in the same boat as me. They weren't play-acting. They really meant what they were saying.

'Now I have learnt to see anger for what it is, not to let it fester, so that it gets bigger and bigger and then gets green, the green of jealousy. Looking back now, I feel as though all the violence in my life culminated in that one night, that night I struck her. I was disgusted with myself. Then I came here and someone listened to me, actually took an interest in me, helped me to look at myself and find a good person inside.'

The Everyman Centre, 30a Brixton Road, London SW9 6BU (071-793 0255). The Everyman helpline (071-793 0155), Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7.30pm to 10pm.

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