The slow path to change for Jimmy Lituma

Por en Chicago 02/10/13 4:05pm
A woman holding her baby look out the window of their new home on Wednesday, May 2, 2012. A group of men meet weekly at Healthcare Alternative Systems in the Logan Square neighborhood to try to change their abusive behavior. (Stacey Wescott/ Chicago Tribune)

This year at Hoy we are working on a project about domestic violence in immigrant communities.

As part of that work we are talking with service providers, lawyers and survivors.

We are also speaking with perpetrators.

Jimmy Lituma is one of them.

On a recent Wednesday the 28-year-old Ecuadorean with an intent gaze and short black hair joined a group of men at Healthcare Alternative Systems, a non-profit in the Logan Square neighborhood.

Dressed casually in blue jeans, hoodies, t-shirt and sneakers, many of the men sported tattoos.  Looking like they were in their  20s and 30s, they sat and slouched in the chairs that lined a second-floor room.

I am here because I committed domestic violence against the mother of my children, one said.

I am here because I committed domestic violence against my ex-wife, said another.

All of the other men were there as part of court-mandated counseling.

Jimmy was different.

He was there voluntarily.

He had made the decision to seek help after yet another evening in November of drinking during which he had become belligerent and gotten into a fight.

This time, he had taken on five guys and ended up in the hospital with a broken nose and an extremely upset girlfriend.

He also understood in a way that he hadn’t before, that he could have been killed.  Not necessarily by the people whom he had fought, but by their family and friends.

He decided to attend the group.

Although he had only gone to three meetings, the discussions and videos had helped him see his previous behavior with an earlier girlfriend in a different light.

They had met when he came over from Ecuador at 17, leaving the grandparents who had raised him and reuniting with his parents.

He met a young Mexican woman and fell for her.

Hard.

Over the next seven years the couple grew up together.

But the relationship was often tempestuous.

Jimmy did not hit her, he said.

But he did threaten her.

A martial arts black belt, he did use physical intimidation and did stop her from moving when she wanted to get away from him.

He did verbally abuse her, calling her unprintable names.

Jimmy didn’t just act that way with his girlfriend.

He yelled at the staff of the restaurant he owned.

He liked to live like a high roller, throwing down hundreds of dollars on the table at a club and declaring to the person sitting there, “I can buy your mother.”

Change is coming slowly.

But Jimmy says he’s stopped drinking.

He’s yelling less at his workers.

And he’s treating his girlfriend, whom he intends to marry and start a family with, better.

It’s not clear how long any of this will last, or even how many sessions Jimmy will attend.

But he has made a start.