As part of KQED's #USToo series, women have shared in their own words, stories of abuse and sexual harassment.
In this installment, we hear from a man who says for most of his life, he was an abuser. 62-year-old Steven McMaryion of Los Angeles says he sees the #MeToo movement as an opportunity for men like him to also stand up, speak out, and acknowledge how they’ve hurt others.
'I Learned Basically From What I Heard in the Streets'
I grew up in a family being the oldest of the young men in my family. I had three brothers under me and three sisters over me. Therefore I was told I was the man of the house. My dad was in and out of my life, mostly out. I learned basically from what I heard on the streets. Older men would say, "you need to train a woman."
I used to hear my mother and her friends and my sisters sometimes speak negatively of men. And as a young man I took that personally and figured they were talking about me too. So I took a defense to it.
The first time I can remember actually physically abusing a woman I was about 16 years old. I was with a friend of mine and I witnessed him striking his girlfriend. And so I thought that was the right thing to do. So I did the same thing. I struck my girl. When I did she was very surprised. I'll never forget the look on her face when she asked, "Why did you do that?" And I really didn't have an answer. I know it didn't feel right but she didn't leave. She stayed there. So that was the ticket for me to say it was OK.
'It Feels Good to Be Free and to Say These Things'
When I was about 30 years old I fell into a relationship that lasted for about 10 years. I have to admit that I abused her in every fashion of the word "abuse."
There came a time where she told me she wasn't afraid of me anymore. It shocked me because I didn't know what to do. I was losing my form of control, so I threatened her. Matter of fact I threatened her with a gun and she actually went to the police.
That cost me time in prison. While in prison I received a spiritual revelation. I had a chance to look at myself and see the ugliness of myself and who I thought I was and who I was not.
This was in 1998. In the wake of the #MeToo movement I wanted to share my story. I wanted to share the distortion of who I thought women were and that they were to be used.
I realize now this is a time of healing and it feels good to be free to be able to say these things. I can remember that in that 10-year relationship, my protection was for her to be silent. For her not to say anything.
You know I thank the Lord Most High for allowing me to be free enough to speak about the ugliness of that part of me. I really, honestly believe that there are more men that need to see this within themselves.
I wrote a poem, an apology to the women I hurt and those who have been hurt at the hands of men like me.
I apologize, Ladies, for my ignorance,
I didn’t know.
You see, I was blinded, mislead, and misguided by a fractured childhood,
false meaning of manhood, and a psychopathic ego.
I apologize for that person I used to be and for all the men who are still
blinded and cannot see.
I apologize to ALL Women known and unknown that happened across
my self-destructive path. Whatever harm I’ve created, I hope it doesn’t last.
I apologize for not realizing the true essence of your role. The whole existence
of this earth lies in your soul.
I apologize for not realizing that you are a partner, not a tool. All the while,
you were seeking love and support, not to be used.
I apologize for not realizing you are my help-mate, an extension of myself. Your
quality and necessity is valued more than ANY wealth.
You see, I realize you have been misunderstood, unheard, and neglected
way too long. I sure hope it doesn’t take the next man this long to realize
he’s been wrong.
I apologize for contributing to Satan’s plan and all the while called myself
fighting against "the man."
I pray each and everyday to the Most High for forgiveness in neglecting
my role as receiver of HIS most precious gift.
I apologize as a man, a TRUE Man, that I am.
Would you, please, accept MY Apology so that we can start over again?