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Breaking the silence about domestic abuse

Congregants from St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church showed their support against domestic violence by filling a table at the fundraising luncheon. From left are: Rev. Michael Gonzales, Linda Riddle-executive director of DAIP, Robin Gonzales, Annie Kennedy, Catherine Scott (in back) Deborah Aaron, Portia Johnson and Claudie Washington. (Naomi Yaeger photo)1 / 3
After the luncheon, John Beyer, DAIP board chairman and retired Deputy Chief of Police, Duluth Police Department poses with Renita Robinson, project director of the DAIP family visitation Center and Lt. Leigh Wright of the Duluth Police Department. Beyer also spoke at the event. (Naomi Yaeger photo)2 / 3
Doug Antonich wipes a tear from his eye, while his wife, Bonnie, listens. (Naomi Yaeger photo)3 / 3

With an audience of more than 70 people at the Greysolon Plaza listening in rapt attention, Doug Antonich told how he used to try to control everything his wife and family did.

"I was angry, anxious, and wanted to control everything in our household, from how we spent our money to how the Tupperware cupboard was organized," he said.

His story, told with his wife, Bonnie, was the keynote speech for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Program's Heart of Change fundraising luncheon two days before Valentine's Day.

"I was abusive; I was mean, uncaring and unkind to my family," Doug said, breaking down in tears during his speech. "And all the while, I functioned extremely well outside of our home, at church, and in the academic community. As an elementary teacher, I strove to be affirming, loving; kind and understanding with my students ... but when I came home, ... I was a different man."

After he said his piece, Bonnie told her side -- punctuating it with the hopeful news that their life is better now.

In getting there, Doug said he tried marriage counseling, a therapist, men's growth groups, read books and prayed, but nothing helped.

"One day, after one of my angry tirades, over something insignificant,

I saw Bonnie totally crushed in spirit, curled up in a fetal position rocking back and forth, and weeping."

At that point, after 9½ years of marriage in 2003, he said he knew something was different.

"As I sat down beside her, my heart was moved deeply by her sadness, and I began to weep as well," Doug said. "It was then I made up my mind: 'I have to change.'"

Classes at the DAIP helped him learn how to, the couple said. He began taking classes for Christian men and he said he was surprised to see men he knew in the classes.

For more information on classes on how to stop the cycle of abuse phone DAIP at 218-722-2781 or phone Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center at 218-623-1000.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at www.DuluthDailyPhoto.com.

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