Man arrested for domestic abuse over 20 years ago now advocates for others to get help

Joseph Kelly.PNG
Posted at 11:20 AM, Jun 24, 2021

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. -News 3 continues our series on domestic abuse after exploring how money, religion and technology impact abusive situations.

Now, we hear from the other side: a man who was arrested for abusing his partner more than two decades ago.

Joseph Kelly shared with News 3 his journey to overcome what he calls a "sickness" he had 24 years ago.

“It was toxic. The definition of going home every day was going home knowing I was going to get into a fight,” Kelly said.

Kelly admits it was a violent, toxic relationship but said it was behavior he had witnessed as a child in his neighborhood, at school and at home. He said back then, domestic violence was tolerated more and was even acceptable.

“I grew up seeing that outside, and I watched my mother, growing up, dealing with situations like that,” Kelly said.

Kelly said in his early 30s, the violence in his relationship escalated and landed him in jail several times.

“It was real scary. It was real ugly to live that way, in and out of jail. It tears your life apart. It tears your kids apart,” Kelly said. “I’d say the number one thing is to admit it to yourself and go get help.”

He said he got a wake-up call from a judge one day who said that if Kelly showed up in his courtroom one more time with his girlfriend, he would send Kelly to prison.

“The only thing that made me get help was the judge,” Kelly said. “He said, 'If you come back in this court with this young lady and you are having any problems, I’m putting you in prison because she’s not right and she’s going to stay with you regardless,' and that woke me up.”

Then, he said he searched for support in the community and found a program that allowed him to attend group therapy sessions, hearing from domestic violence victims.

Kelly told us he had also been abused physically in the relationship.

“I got some horrible stories from what these women went through,” Kelly said. “My situation isn’t as bad as their situation, but I thought about how bad my situation had gotten and it could’ve been one of their situations.”

He said he realized he had a sickness and that he needed help, therapy and treatment. He also needed to better understand love and how situations with domestic violence do not involve love.

"That’s not love; that’s not love at all. That’s not even a thought process of love. You can’t love somebody else if you don’t love yourself first.”
Kelly encourages abusers to admit there is a problem.

“It’s okay to say you’re an abuser,” he said.

He said many abusers try to hide their behavior but added that admitting what he had done helped him with his healing process.

Today, he runs Happy Hour Live, a group that promotes local artists and musicians through podcasts and interviews and works to support the community.

Kelly, who told us that many in the community know him as "Uncle Joe," said his mission is to use his experiences and mistakes to help young men and children overcome their problems and break the patterns of abuse.

He said his journey with domestic violence made him the man he is today.

“I take care of all kids - not just mine, but my responsibility is to take care of all kids, and domestic violence is what led me to this. It was my crusade to do this. It pulled me away and made me realize what my gift is for the community,” Kelly said.

If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, here are some resources:

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