A young woman came to see me recently, she was involved with a man who was abusing her in all the forms of abuse you can shudder about, physical, sexual and psychological.

When I told her she needed to get away from him, her answer floored me. "But, he's so sorry he hurts me and he had such a terrible childhood. Shouldn't I be patient and loving and understanding?"

On my drive home that night I thought about the limits of caring about other people's problems.

I usually can muster a certain amount of sympathy for the underdog, the person with problems. After all, that's my profession. So what sympathetic understanding can I feel for the abuser (usually a him)?

Well, maybe he had an unhappy childhood. Maybe he was even abused himself. The poor fellow is repeating on others the awfulness that was done unto him. Inside his heart, he feels unloved and unlovable, so he has to force himself on females who wouldn't stay with him unless he keeps them scared and under control. In a sad, twisted, misguided way, he's just trying to get nurtured and loved and to feel secure. Can you buy that explanation and muster up some sympathy for the guy?

Try this one - he's got raging hormones. The testosterone level in his body is so high that he is driven by sexual urges that caused him to react with rage if his girlfriend refuses his advances.

Want more? He's depressed. He's got a drinking problem or drug problem. Enough.

You know, all these explanations, reasons, excuses, may have some truth to them, but do you care? I've never known a situation where tolerating the abuse, being patient and understanding worked. It only allows the abuse to continue. Calling the police is good. So is getting out and not going back at the first cry of remorse and "I'm sorry."

No abuser has ever come to see me on his own and said he wanted help because he was upset about his own behavior. The abusers come for help only when they have to, when the judge orders it, or their wife or girlfriend leaves and they can't convince her to come back

So until someone blows the whistle on them, they continue to abuse.

First, get away from the abuse. Then, be patient and caring and understanding from a distance.

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