Boyfriend beat me up

I have known my boyfriend for five years and I have a son from a previous relationship. A year ago, we started living together. Ever since, we have been fighting a lot. After one very bad fight, he hit me.

I went to live with my sister. He kept apologising and begging me to return. I eventually did. I found out that while I was gone he had sex with another woman. I asked him about it and he said that he had been drunk and didn't know what he was doing.

I forgave him. Things were fine for a while. Then he beat me up again and I was admitted to hospital overnight. He broke a rib and burst an ear drum. I left him three months ago.

He has apologised and said that he will go for help if I return. My sister, who has been my strength throughout, says he will never change. But I believe people can change. Am I wrong?

Broken Woman, Johannesburg South

Of course people can change, but if there is a pattern of abuse it won't stop unless he gets help. Even if he goes for counselling you must proceed very carefully if you intend going back. Change, even through counselling, takes time. The first person to consider is your son. Moving from house to house and seeing his mom in hospital is very traumatic for him.