Every day, three women die as result of abuse—that's nearly 1,100 killed every year. "That number might not mean anything to you...unless the woman was your mother, your sister, your daughter," Oprah says. Young men who admit to hitting, kicking, choking and even wanting to kill the women they claim to love are opening up to Oprah and giving an unprecedented look inside the minds of abusers.
Sir says the first time he laid his hands on his wife, Christy, was just weeks after their wedding. He says he got jealous after a party where she was dancing with someone else. "It set me off. I remember walking up to her and smacking her full force," Sir says. "I grabbed her by her neck, and I kind of held her against the car. Then, I walked her over to the bushes and threw her in there, and I just started choking her. It was with every bit of rage, every bit of anger I've ever had."
After the first incident of abuse, Sir says he held a gun to his head. "It was very hard for me to come to grips with the man that I was," he says. Sir promised Christy it would never happen again, and she forgave him.
Though Sir swore to his wife that the abuse would stop, it continued for the next two-and-a-half years. Even while Christy was pregnant, she says Sir beat her to the point where she feared for her life. "She didn't want to be intimate with me, she didn't want to have sex with me and I got very furious," Sir says. "I got on top of her and sat on her stomach."
Christy says Sir choked her and covered her nose and mouth so she couldn't breathe. "I was just thinking: 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to die right now. Is this really happening?'"
When he was in a rage and beating Christy, Sir says he did want her to die. "I had every intention to take her life. I felt like I had power and control over something in my life," Sir says. "It made me feel invincible."
Luckily, Christy survived the abuse. "By the grace of God, reality would come back to me as the rage would decrease," Sir says. "I look back now and I can see that at that time, when the rage would come, it was like tunnel vision. I would try and express my anger and my disappointment the only way I knew how. And that was through abuse."
Eventually, Christy left Sir and gave him an ultimatum—either they would include Christ in their marriage or she would not return to Sir. "I went home and gave my life to Christ," Sir says. "With that [freedom] came the relationship with my wife. It was so much better."
Sir says it's been about two years since he last hit Christy. "If one of our arguments were to progress and continue to escalate, instead of adrenaline, it's knots," he says. "I'll have knots in my stomach, and I'll say, 'Okay, we have to stop talking.' That allows me to step aside and pray and calm down."
Christy says that if Sir were to ever hit her again, she would leave. "He has full knowledge of what he needs to be doing as a man and a father and a husband," she says. "If he's not owning up to those responsibilities, then I'm better than that, and my kids deserve better than that."
Though Sir says the abuse has stopped, he admits it's an everyday struggle. "If I ever think I have it under control, I'm in trouble," he says.
Though Sir can't speak for all men, he believes his own abusive behavior was triggered by his past. "Kids are precious—they record everything," he says. "I grew up in an abusive household, so I didn't know how to verbally communicate with my wife without putting her down. I didn't know how to verbally disagree with her and say, 'We don't see eye to eye,' and be okay with that."
Does Sir believe that every man who hits a woman once will hit her again? "I say yes because I hit [Christy] more than once—there was a second occasion, there was a third," he says. "Do I think it's a cycle that can be stopped? Yes."
Tony is another man who admits to having abused a woman. In an e-mail to Oprah, he said he beat a previous girlfriend so badly she bled. "I couldn't express myself verbally, so I would take it out on her physically," Tony wrote. "The thing that triggered me was that I was insecure as a person. To see her stare at another man, or to see her have a conversation with another man, or if she confronted me about anything, it enraged me."
Though Tony says he knew, even in the moment, that he shouldn't being doing what he was doing, he says he couldn't stop.
Tony says he's trying to make amends for his previous actions by speaking out against domestic violence whenever he can. "[I want] to say, by grace and remorse, that I'm still here today," he says. "I made it through."
In the time that Tony was abusing his girlfriend, he says he was especially confused about his own behavior because his girlfriend had sex with him after the abuse occurred.
"After the incident, she would go in the bathroom and shower ... and come out smiling and reinforce it with sex," he says. "In the moment, I didn't understand it because ... I was so down that I just did that. ... It kind of confused me. I didn't know if this is what she wanted."
Tony says it felt like he "blacked out" during the abuse. "You don't understand what's going on," he says. "I completely own up to [what I did], but in that rage, it's like your brain wires, they aren't clicking."
Tony says being in an abusive relationship is like being in a drug addiction. "It becomes like your bond in the sense that the woman is like cocaine inside of that relationship. That's the only connection you have, because there's no real love," he says. "In order to overcome it, it's almost like you have to separate, go to rehab, move out of the dope house and never come back."
Although physical abuse is never acceptable, Sir and Tony say it's the emotional abuse that leaves the deepest scars. "The internal abuse, the demoralizing and demeaning of a woman, lasted longer than the physical abuse," Tony says. "The bruises heal. On the inside, you strip away their pride, force them to compromise their self-worth, their self-respect."
Tony says a grooming process tends to take place within abusive relationships. "In a sense, you gain their trust, but it's all lust and lies. The relationship is built on deception," he says. "They feel like you love them, and when you get close enough to them, you're able to critique them and criticize them in a way that they feel like, 'He loves me, so I need to change this.'"
The grooming, Sir and Tony say, stems from the man's own lack of self-worth. "In public I'm a very confident male; at home I'm very insecure," Sir says.
It's an issue Sir says he and his wife are still working through. "She still heals from the verbal abuse. I took almost every secret that she gave me to in an argument and threw it back at her as an insult," he says. "So it took awhile to kind of have communication."
Many people who have never experienced abuse wonder why it isn't easy for a woman to leave after the first time she's hit. If a woman does leave immediately, would an abuser get the message? "Would a man continue to hit a woman who refuses to be hit?" Oprah asks.
"I think it's different for each man," Sir says. "To me, it could have been reversed in the sense of, 'Okay, I'm going to have to tame this now.' Or the opposite is, 'I shouldn't have done that.'"
Author and activist Kevin Powell has an inside look into the mind of a domestic abuser—he used to be one. When he was 25 years old, his temper was caught on camera during MTV's first season of The Real World. Off camera, Kevin says he was also abusive to women and sought counseling. For the past 18 years, he's been working with men across the country to end violence against women.
Kevin agrees that abusing is an addiction. "I think it's a form of mental illness to commit any form of violence against a female or a male," he says. "I think we've got to strive for a society that's rooted in nonviolence."
The first step? "Having the courage to own your mistakes," he says. "That's something I had to do."
That doesn't only apply to men who've abused in the past—Kevin says every man must step up if they see the men around them engaging in abusive behavior. "Your silence is agreement and participation," Kevin says.
Another vital step in ending the abuse of women and girls, Kevin says, is making sure that men who abuse receive the proper counseling . "It's got to be a commitment over time around getting to the root causes of it so you can begin to heal," he says. "I can say that I've been in counseling for the past 20 years."
Kevin says faith has also helped him, but it's only one piece of the puzzle. "What oftentimes happens is that people will think because they're at a church or a synagogue or a mosque or whatever their particular faith is that they're okay. No. Are you really dealing with where this emotional hurt came from?" he says. "Mental development has to happen, emotional development."
Kevin says healing doesn't only happen when talking to a therapist or pastor. It also happens through support groups or advocacy organizations. "Part of this is that we have got to make a commitment to becoming allies in speaking out against this," he says. "Are you willing for the rest of your life to commit verbally, emotionally, spiritually to challenging any forms of violence toward women and girls?" he says. "That's the kind of work we need to get to."
Twenty years ago, Robin Givens and her then-husband Mike Tyson sat down for a haunting interview with Barbara Walters. In the interview, Robin said Mike shook, pushed and took swings at her. No charges were ever filed against him.
Today, Robin is a spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and says that men need to stand up and join the fight against abuse. "It's going to take men to come on board to help solve this issue that we have in the community," she says. "Hitting a woman is unacceptable."
It's only when men and woman take a good look at themselves that healing can begin, Robin says. "[Abuse] happens all the time. It doesn't matter what color you are, your socioeconomic background. It doesn't matter what religion you are," she says. "I am the third generation of abuse. So we have to deal with our own hurt, our own pain, and get as healed and whole as we can before we can have healthy relationships with other people."