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This article appeared in the April 20, 1997 edition of The Detroit News , and is reprinted with The Detroit News' kind permission.

     

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Sunday, April 20, 1997

Spotlight on female abuser: For 13 years, he never hit her back

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Photo by Tom Buckhoe

After their marriage disintegrated, Karen Gillhespy, 34, of Marquette admits: "I am ashamed for what I did."

By Becky Beaupre / The Detroit News


    For 13 years, Karen Gillhespy was the abuser.
    She says she broke her husband's ribs, ripped entire patches of his hair out, scratched him, bit him, beat him with a baseball bat and kicked him.
    He never hit back -- and he never filed charges.
    But more shocking to Gillhepsy are the reactions she encountered telling her story.
    "They told me I was the victim," said Gillhespy, 34, of Marquette. "Here's no way any of this was his fault. ... I knew the difference between being the victim and being the perpetrator. I am ashamed for what I did."
    Gillhespy believes most people don't believe men can be victims. She knows they are wrong.
    "I think it is just as serious as (violence against women) -- you just don't hear about it," Gillhespy says. "Maybe more men would come forward if you did."
    Gillhespy, who wed at 16, says she began beating her husband early in their 16-year marriage. Her former husband, reached by phone, declined to comment but confirmed that abuse took place.
    At the time, Gillhespy was a crack user, heroin addict and alcoholic. She says she beat her husband in fits of rage, usually when she wanted money or the car.
    "I told him he was no good, and that he was loser. I kicked him and threw things at him," she says. "I used him and used him and used him."
    The turning point came in February 1993, when Gillhespy struck two pregnant women in Grand Rapids while driving drunk.
    Gillhespy received 45 days in jail and was sent to a drug treatment program in Marquette. She has gotten a divorce, finished high school and stayed sober. In a year, she will receive a degree from Northern Michigan University.
    And although Gillhespy now understands the issues that led her to violence, she says she accepts full responsibility for her actions.
    Her strength, she says, comes from admitting that she had a problem -- and from trying to help others accept that domestic violence goes both ways.
    "I'm the other side of the coin," she says simply. "If you're abused, you're abused."

     

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Special Report: No place to run for male victims of domestic abuse: Shelters, support groups rare for men whose mates batter them at home, A Detroit News report by Becky Beaupre.

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