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Made not born Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Oct 01 2011 12:00 PM

Editor's note: This is the second in an occasional series of stories about domestic violence in South Bay. The subject's identity has been changed.


Leo was raised by a mother who didn't communicate to him with love or affection.

He was neglected and abused.

His father was a career military man often away from home and unfaithful to his mother, who was impatient, depressed and violent.

Now 30, Leo recalls his mother turning tables over in a rage and one time, beating him in his sleep with a tennis racquet.

Christina Castillo is the group facilitator for the domestic violence intervention program for South Bay Community Services and said that domestic violence is a multi-generational issue or learned behavior, passed down through generations.

"Domestic violence offenders are often raised with no problem-solving or communication skills," Castillo said. "A lot of them (offenders) coming in can't even define what a healthy relationship is..."

Leo was 26 when he choked his then girlfriend so hard she nearly lost consciousness.

"She was lucky," Leo said. "It's not her fault that I put my hands on her."

Leo said the incident was a "blessing in disguise" because he would not have known the severity of his problem until that happened.

"I called the cops because I wanted to leave (the situation)," he said. "I told dispatch that I needed someone to take me somewhere else because I didn't know what I was going to do."

Pam Wright is the clinical director for South Bay Community Services in Chula Vista and works with the domestic violence intervention program, which provides a 52-week court-ordered program to violent offenders like Leo.

Wright said many domestic violence offenders experience significant trauma themselves, including physical and emotional abuse and neglect.

"I would have been a completely different person had my father been in my life," he said. "I think my dad being gone had a severe impact on my mom..."

In the domestic violence intervention program, facilitators focus on improving and increasing offender's self-esteem through group exercises and discussion and teaching them about types of abuse, triggers for violence and how to develop and maintain healthy relationships.

When he was 17 years old Leo left home and struggled with alcohol, drugs and lack of self-worth. He would drive while drunk and on drugs, which got him multiple DUIs.

"I thought I was in control," he said. "I didn't think about who I would hurt ... my pain was more important than anyone else's."

He had a daughter with his first serious girlfriend at 23 and is married to another woman with whom he has a 2-year-old son.

"I know 52 weeks won't heal me, but it's a start ... it makes me feel good," he said. "It's for me and for my life. It's one more tool I can use so maybe I can help someone else. I've always wanted to help people, but I had to help myself first because I'm my biggest obstacle."

Now Leo can identify triggers and leave the situation before he does something he'll regret.

"I'm not just going to sit there for two hours and have the same heart and perspective," he said. "I believe everything's gonna be all right. I take everything I've been through and turn it into a positive."

"They (offenders) have lots of insecurity issues which they turn into power and control," Castillo said. "They are also dealing with a lot of sadness, which turns into anger."

Today, Leo is going to school to get his degree in business and is working hard to keep his GPA up. He has about eight weeks left before he completes the program.

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Robert Lang Says:

Tue, Nov 08 2011 04:38 PM

Little is ever said about the female domestic violence offenders. I knew of a female offender, in the San Diego area, who later became a domestic violence counseler. Scary! Obviously the backgrounds of the counselers are not always thoroughly investigated.

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