LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — James Beard has walked a 30-year road to recovery, rehabilitation and redemption after physically abusing his wife for years.
For his daughter, Maisha, while she knows and applauds the changes and progress he’s made, the memories of him battering her mother remain vivid, even today.READ MORE: One Juvenile Shot Near Schools In Watts
“He abused my mother emotionally, mentally and physically,” Maisha recalled. “I told him ‘If you touch my mother again, I’m going to kill you.’ ”
Beard was already abusing drugs and alcohol when he married Maisha’s mother in 1980, when Maisha was 8. He went on to have two more children with her.
“I was a batterer,” Beard said. “I was pathetic.”
Beard told CBS2’s Pat Harvey that he would use “extreme battering”, saying: “I would choke her until she passed out, put water on her face, wake her up and choke her some more.”
The abuse continued for five years.
This changed on Valentine’s Day in 1985, when Beard’s father intervened.
“My father basically took her from me,” Beard said.
Beard’s father took Maisha’s mother in, and kept his son away from her.
“I heard grandfather come in the house, and he said ‘Boy, I’m not going to let you kill this woman,’ ” Maisha remembered.
Maisha’s mother was nursed back to health by Beard’s parents, until she was well enough to leave and rebuild her life without him.
“I’m not proud of that, but it’s what I’ve been through, and it led me to what I do now,” Beard said.
Thirty years later, Beard works to prevent men from taking part in domestic violence. While he never served time for his crimes, he now counsels domestic abuse offenders in jail.READ MORE: LOOK: Crash Leaves Gardener's Pickup Truck Stuck Between Hollywood Hills Garage And Wrought-Iron Fence
“Gentlemen, I tell you, and I tell you plain, if you hurt women, everything you touch is going to turn to crap,” James advised to a group of offenders. “I’m going to teach you the physiology of your anger, on what happens to you on a physical level, so you can catch it before it’s too late.”
Beard, in a bungalow at the Los Angeles County Jail’s Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, coaches domestic-violence-prevention skills to hundreds of incarcerated domestic-abuse offenders, who look to get a grip on their rage.
“Before we can learn what love is, we have to know what it’s not,” Beard said.
Through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s MERIT program, Beard has worked with 20,000 domestic-abuse offenders since 1999.
Today, Beard says that he and his ex-wife are friends, and Maisha says that her mother has fully forgiven him.
“Is she proud of him? Absolutely,” Maisha said. “She just can’t relive it in this moment.”
Maisha and her sister also say that Beard fully made amends with them and that he encourages them to share the dark story of their family with others to allow the healing process to continue.
Beard did not deny the fact that a breakthrough with one of his students makes him emotional, saying: “It really does, because I see me. I see a hundred me’s. As many men as I can get to and to help them transform, it’s my way of coming to a point where I can say, ‘Well done.’ ”
Maisha, meanwhile, who spoke on the terror she felt 30 years ago, was just as open about the pride she feels today.
“Whose dad beat their wife, turns it around, is clean for over 20 years, makes amends and then dedicates his life to rehabilitating domestic-violence offenders,” Maisha asked.
“Who’s dad does that? Mine. I’m very proud of him.”
For more information on Safe Passage, an organization that works to help battered women turn their lives around, visit the group’s website here.MORE NEWS: High Winds Returning To LA Area Thursday
For more on the Sheriff’s Department’s Education Based Incarceration, including the MERIT program, visit the department’s website here.