Reformed domestic violence perpetrator opens up about realising violence isn't love

A reformed domestic violence perpetrator has opened up about his realisation that violence isn't love and that he needed to change his lifestyle.

Last week, The Project aired the chilling stories of two domestic violence survivors and presenter Jesse Mulligan put out an emotional appeal to perpetrators of family violence. 

"As usual, we're talking about how the victims can solve this problem," Mulligan said.

"Can I take a second to suggest there's actually a better way - and that's for the abuser to sort their own s*** out."

One man who is open about his experience as a violent abuser is Vic Tamati, the founder of Safe Man Safe Family, a group that attempts to engage with abusive people who want to break free from their violent lifestyles.

Tamati told The Project that he grew up viewing violence as a normal part of life.

"I thought it was normal. Violence was normal growing up in the home, at school, at church and I thought violence was so normal and that it was called love. I ended getting it tattooed on my hand," he said.

"I was literally told every time I got a hiding that it was done to me because I was loved, this was love, this is love, and it is done to me because I love you and this love comes from god."

When Tamati became a parent, violence remained a constant in his life.

"When my youngest daughter was eight-years-old and supposed to get ready to go to school, and they were too slow getting ready, and so I called her into the lounge and she came in with an attitude.

"I told she had to get ready for school and she just said no. I was pacing up and down and I just grabbed a shoe and started whacking her with a shoe. When she staunched up to me I turned the shoe around and I smashed her with the heel of the shoe."

He said that incident led to a rift in the family and his wife leaving him.

"With my wife at the time came home, told her I gave her a hiding, she just lost the plot and called me all the names under the sun, she told me to f*** off, 'how could you do this to our baby'.

"She took some of the kids and went to Women's Refuge. It was at that time that my baby, my eight-year-old, she took the blame, it is because of her that I am angry.

"When I was growing up, I never took the blame and so I just got all confused, so it was from there that I made the decision along with the family that I needed help."

He eventually went to a programme called STOP where he was tested on his beliefs.

"I walked in on the first day, and he said to me 'is there anything that would stop you from completing this programme', and I said 'yes there is, yes there is' and I looked at these 16 or so men in the room, I looked at them all in the eye and I said if any of you touch any of my kids, I will f***ing kill you."

Twenty weeks later, Tamati was sat down by the programme's leader and asked why he hadn't killed himself.

"I lost it, grabbed him, tried to throw him out the window, started wrestling around. [He] sat me back down and he said 'who touched your kids, who gave your kids a hiding' and what would I do to anyone who would touch my kids, so why didn't I kill myself?"

Tamati said that was the moment when he realised his views and beliefs surrounding violence were wrong and he began working to help himself and others.

"Violence is still there. It is a tool that I have still got in my toolbox, but it is right down the bottom. It is not used because I have got all these other tools that I go to first, like walking away, time out, ringing somebody."

He says it can be hard for people to step forward when it goes against their lifestyle and those telling the perpetrators to speak up don't understand the experiences they have been through.

But, ultimately, he hopes abusers do reach out to organisations like Safe Man Safe Families and become role models for those around them.

Watch the full interview above.

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