Breaking the cycle of domestic violence Updated: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The sentencing of a man who police say terrorized his girlfriend and child is getting the attention of domestic violence counselors. Police say in December Michael Mackins threatened to blow up his girlfriend's Portage apartment and then stabbed her repeatedly in front of their toddler. Yesterday, a judge ordered him to spend up to 20 years in prison despite a plea for leniency. "I do have a good heart no matter what anybody may think. I'm not a monster your honor," said Michael Mackins. In January, Mackins' girlfriend shared her story of survival with Newschannel3, urging other women to leave abusive relationships. But months later a much different reality has unfolded. We talked to the victim, Ashley Gates, after she came home from the hospital. She claimed he abused her before, and that she would never go back to him. So tonight, we talked to a domestic violence counselor about how to break the cycle of abuse. On January 14th, Ashley Gates showed us her wounds inflicted by the man she loved, Michael Mackins. She was stabbed in the face with a steak knife, her hands sliced to the tendon. Her son, who was three at the time, witnessed it all from the backseat of the car. "He tells me, mommy, daddy hurt you, daddy tried to kill you? And that hurts me. If he hit you once, he's going to hit you again, so don't take that excuse, don't believe it," said Gates back in January. But that story changed dramatically yesterday, when Gates showed up at Mackins' sentencing. "I feel that Michael Mackins is not a danger to me or my child. I feel like what he has been charged with is too high. I don't feel my son is messed up from this," said Gates at that sentencing. Cheree Thomas, a domestic violence counselor with the YWCA tells us when children are involved some women will stay in an abusive relationship because of familial ties, or because abuse has become the norm. "The control that's there is very strong. There's psychological abuse, emotional abuse, there's isolation that occurs between the woman and her family and friends. So, the only point of reference you have of the world is looking through the lens of a person who's been abusive to you," said Cheree Thomas, the YWCA Program Director for Women's Services. Thomas says most victims need a family member or friend to create an intervention, sending the message you can be loved by someone, without being abused. "If you don't have someone telling you that, and providing an option for you to get out of a relationship, then you don't see it as a possibility," said Thomas. The YWCA has a 24 hour crisis line offering help anytime.