SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Your wedding day is a moment you will never forget.

“I married her and vowed to protect her and nourish her and cherish her. I ended up abusing her instead. Obviously I was breaking everything I promised before God,” Kirk Johnson said.

“First year of marriage he beat me 11 times,” his Wife Brenda Johnson added.

But, they were newlyweds and Brenda did not want to give up on the marriage.

“I value marriage. In the new marriage I said to myslef that I didn’t want to get a divorce. I wanted to fix the problem and restore the relationship,” she said.

And so did Kirk. He took the initiative to seek help for his actions. He even put himself through a class designed for abusers on two separate occasions.

“About 99.9% of them are forced to come in by the courts,” NACIA Director Dennis Davis said. The NACIA is an organization that offers classes similar to the one Kirk Johnson used.

“We do some awareness. Looking at their past where they learned all this wrong decision making,” Davis said.

He says it’s a learned behavior because a lot of abusers were actually once the victim.

“They’re repeating what they’re exposed to so we try to break that cycle by not passing it on to other adults or children,” Davis said.

Kirk Johnson is one of those cases.

“The first thing I had to get a handle on was to stop the blame shifting. It’s skewed thinking. It’s disfunctional thinking. Having to work through the hurt through my past, it frankly created a rage inside of me that I took out on her,” Kirk Johnson said.

Brenda’s abuse continued for 9 years. It was not often physical abuse, but actions that were still considered abuse.

“I said, Lord, I give up. Unless you do something in my life, that’s going to be it,” Johnson said.

With prayer and more classes, they are now 17 years abuse-free and even teach a class of their own.

“I have the priviledge of taking my story and pass it on to them and I’ve seen a lot of lives changed as well,” Brenda Johnson said.

The couple uses it’s experience to now help other couples.

“Number one, the abuser has to actively seek help and really want it. Number two there’s a contract that we do…where both couples sit down and say this is how we’re going to handle a conflict,” Kirk Johnson said.

It is a plan that helped save Brenda and Kirk’s marriage and hopefully stopped the cycle of abuse in their family.

To see all of our special reports about domestic violence in the Ozarks, click here