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Living With The Enemy: Unnecessary Roughness

At age 26, Mark Gastineau was an NFL superstar. He set the record for quarterback sacks in a season, and dazzled fans of the New York Jets.


But when his football career ended, Gastineau was still making headlines - as an abuser. He is now serving 18-month jail sentence after violating probation for abusing his wife Patricia Gastineau.


And that is just the latest in a pattern of abuse that has pervaded his relationships with women. According to court papers, one summer night two years ago, Gastineau and his wife got into fight that ended with him slapping, choking, and threatening to kill her.


Mark Gastineau says that his violent outbursts stem from "me wanting my wife, girlfriend, to be submissive to me in the world."


But now he claims he's begun to understand his behavior, thanks to a newfound faith and a counseling program for batterers.


And Gastineau is not alone in his fight to reform. He is joined by other men who are working to overcome their violent pasts. Mike, an antiques dealer, felt the only way he knew how to end an argument with his wife Debbie, was to hit her: "It was my way of saying 'enough is enough. I won't be disrespected this way.'"


It took Scott two years to admit he was battering his wife. "She used to have constant black and blue marks and, you know, it never dawned on me that that they were from me," he says.


Experts say children of abusers often grow up to be abusive. Scott says his son needs counseling, too. "He tends to be quick throwing a fist," he explains. "Funny how they pick up the worst things that you can possibly teach them."


Sara Elinoff is co-director of the Men Overcoming Violence program in Western Massachusetts. "We've had men in the program who are college professors," says Elinoff. "I was shocked because I...had the idea that men who batter are those men over there. They're not the men I knew. And I learned. I learned it's everywhere. "


It is difficult, she says, to change behavior that's so ingrained. Even the counselors admit more failure than success.


Elinoff says about 40 percent of the men who begin the program don't complete it. "Only 15 percent of the men are really able to make the complete change," she says.


As for Mark Gastineau, it's unclear whether his marriage to Patricia will survive. He'll be released this summer and hopes life will be a different ballgame. "I'm a lot further along than I was," he says. "But I'm not near what I want to be."

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