My brother just moved into a new apartment only to learn that his next-door neighbor is our former stepfather. A man neither of us have seen in more than 20 years, and quite frankly, hoped dead. A man who regularly beat my mother, and less regularly, my brother.*
I used to lie in bed at night, imagining what I would do the next time he attacked her. There was a gun in the top of her closet. I knew how to use it, and he didn't. But I wasn't sure I could bring myself to actually shoot someone--and I knew the danger was too high if I wasn't successful. My alternative plan was to take her big iron skillet to the back of his head. But again, I was afraid of the consequences if I wasn't strong enough to knock him out. And so when he attacked her, we usually just ran to the neighbors and called the police. And time after time, she took him back, even with breaks, bruises and hospital visits.
If you think it's ok to stay with a man who hits you, as long as he's not hitting the kids, you're wrong. First, you don't know when he's going to turn on the kids. But the scars from watching my mother attacked over and over again, while she refused to remove herself and us from that situation, are as deep as any physical wound. It is the primary reason for the wedge between us. There was no reason not to leave. He offered little financial contribution (he worked construction and often went weeks between jobs), and I can't name a single redeeming quality about him. She had family all around who could have helped her out. I will never understand why she didn't leave--and why she chose him over us.
I asked my brother if he said anything to him--told him that my inclination would be to sucker punch him. But my brother said he is old and frail now. He was 10-15 years older than my mother, and probably in his late 70's now. My brother is 6'/250lbs--no longer the scrawny kid who used to get his bare ass beat with a belt.
I think I would have to move, in my brother's situation. There is still too much anger there, even after 20 years.
*He didn't mess with me, much. He once pinned me to a wall, but backed off when I kneed him in the balls. He slapped me once, hard enough to knock me into the refrigerator. I moved in with my dad that day, and told my mother, "him or me." She chose him.