It’s still hard for Josh Hale to think of himself as a victim of domestic abuse, but after recently ending a two-year relationship, he is on the road to healing and accepting that very fact.

Hale, 35, sat down with the E-T to talk about his turbulent relationship and why he chose to share his story during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“I think most men are too scared to talk about it,” Hale said. “We are supposed to be tough and are taught to just deal with it.”

Hale said he spent a long time living in a violent relationship with a woman he now shares a child with. But when the violence escalated to a point that he feared his son could be hurt, he took measures to leave.

This is a rare look inside a man’s world of domestic violence.

The beginning

Hale grew up in Dublin and graduated from Stephenville High School in 1999.

After graduation he moved to Justin where he took a job at a convenience store.

That’s where he met the woman who would change his life.

Like most love stories, the beginning was nothing short of a fairy tale. The two met on the job and quickly struck up a friendship. She soon invited him to dinner and from there the relationship turned romantic.

“Everything was great at first,” Hale said. “She was very quiet and soft spoken.”

The two moved to Snyder where he began a new job and she became pregnant.

“We were living the American dream,” he said. “I was working because we wanted her to stay home with our son.”

Being the sole bread winner was a difficult undertaking. To keep the family in a nice home, Hale worked 60-70 hours per week. But being away from home so much took a toll on the relationship.

He said things began to sour with constant bickering and accusations of cheating.

“At first I thought it was postpartum depression or that she was just bored being home with the baby,” he said. “I really wanted a family so I overlooked a lot of things.”

Hale said she put a tracking device on his cell phone and restricted how he could use it.

“I was only allowed to look at Facebook or ESPN,” he said.

Things get worse

By January 2016 Hale had had enough.

He came home from work one evening and told her he was moving out. That’s when things turned physically violent for the first time.

She erupted into anger, and began punching him in the head.

He never fought back; instead he quietly left the couple’s home they shared and rented an apartment.

“I was raised by women and I would never raise my hand to a woman,” he said.

But the separation didn’t last long. Missing his family and hoping to make things whole again, Hale agreed to get back together just one month later.

That decision, however, proved to be a mistake.

He realized she was seeing other men and when he confronted her about it and told her the relationship was over for good, another physical brawl ensued.

“She pulled out a knife and threatened to kill me,” he said.

Then she threw laundry detergent on him and began biting him. When he tried to grab their son and flee the home, she doused him with pepper spray.

“She just kept saying, ‘I should have killed you when I had the chance,’” he said. “I was finally able to get out of the house with my son in my arms.”

He called police and never returned.

Moving forward

Hale now has full custody of his 15-month-old son and has moved back to Erath County where he plans to pick up the pieces.

He sought guidance from Cross Timbers Family Services where he received help maneuvering through the legal system and advice on how to heal.

“They were great,” he said of the organization that helps victims of domestic abuse. “They showed me that this kind of thing happens to men as well as women and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.”

For other men who might find themselves in a similar situation, Hale has this advice:

“It’s ok to stand up for yourself and get the police involved before someone gets hurt,” he said. “And most importantly, get counseling.”