Never Say Never - My Experience with Domestic Abuse
June is Pride Month, which highlights various achievements and disparities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) individuals locally, nationally and internationally. Specifically, the LGBTQ individual often suffers from a number of healthcare disparities. PNWU and the LGBTQ Alliance for Health Club would like to raise awareness and understanding about these disparities during Pride Month.
As I shook out the cobwebs and looked up from the splintered door that I had been slammed through, I saw his expression change. Tears began to pour from his eyes as he stared down at me; at what he had done to me. I’d never imagined that I would have been treated like that, and right then I knew that I had to leave.
If you read those first few lines and thought, “This could never happen to me,” we’re not much different. But I’m here to tell the side you don’t normally hear. I’m living proof that it can happen to anyone.
I am a gay male and I was the victim of domestic abuse. Here is my story:
I met Chase (we will call him Chase for the sake of discretion) at the beginning of my sophomore year of college. I had just come out of the closet and I was determined to find a boyfriend. After a few awkward blind dates, my RA introduced me to her friend, Chase.
He was charming, he was funny and he was very attractive. People were drawn to Chase and it seemed like everyone wanted to be around him. We went on a couple of dates and the chemistry between us felt undeniable. We began to date exclusively and I was in heaven.
Despite a few challenges (he was going to school about 45 minutes away from where I was) our relationship was great. We went out with friends, stayed at each other’s houses and enjoyed many of things that “normal” couples typically enjoy. I could feel us growing closer. After those first six months, however, things began to change.
Chase began to become overwhelmingly attached. He never wanted to come to my town, or hang out with my friends. He said he was very busy and insisted that I come up there to visit. That should have been my first red flag, but I had never been in a relationship. I trusted him. I saw my sacrifices as necessary steps in us being together.
As time progressed, his controlling nature began to display itself more, and he began to make me feel guilty for even the tiniest things.
I was supposed to go visit Chase for the weekend when one of my coworkers was proposed to. To celebrate, my coworkers and I wanted to go out for drinks after work. I called and asked Chase if he minded. I explained the situation and said that I could stay in town that night to celebrate and then come up early the next morning to be with him. It seemed reasonable enough, but he was enraged.
He told me that people who love each other don’t bail on each other. He made me feel horrible. Immediately I dropped my plans with my coworkers and went directly to see him.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why didn't you say no? Why did you let him control you like that?
But when you’re in the hands of an abuser, you don’t initially realize you’re being controlled. Over the next few months, his controlling grip tightened. As I struggled to make him happy, the intensity and number of arguments began to grow and with every fight, Chase slowly chipped away at my self-esteem and positive self-image.
He would blame our fights on me. He would say things like, “if I didn’t love you so much, I wouldn’t fight with you” and “we fight because I care.”
And I believed him.
I believed him because he was older than me. I believe him because he had been in more relationships than I had. I believed him because I loved him.
Over time, my self-esteem sunk lower and lower and his control over me grew.
After about a year and a half, I saw my own friends very little. I was traveling to his town 4-5 days a week. I had gained 30 pounds. My family, whom I was very close with, didn’t like Chase, but I couldn’t hear their concerns or listen to their advice; Chase had me convinced that they were meddling.
I went from talking to my family several times a week, to calling my mother once every few weeks to basically tell her I was alive. Our dark path continued this way for several more months. People began telling me that they thought he was abusive. “He’s never laid a hand on me,” I would bark back, defensively, “and he never would.”
Then it happened.
It was the middle of winter. A deep blanket of snow on the ground had forced the cancellation of school for about a week I found myself stuck in Chase’s town.
We had gone to a party that night and both returned home pretty intoxicated. When we arrived home, we began to argue. I don’t remember what we were even arguing about; I don’t recall exactly what we were arguing about but I think it was about something trivial, like me telling him that I liked a shirt a guy was wearing.
A lot of our arguments started that way. Chase was very jealous. Any nice comment toward anyone else, especially another guy, was an immediate cause for a fight. This time, however, our argument took a much darker turn than it ever had before. Chase became enraged.
After an hour or so of screaming, I said that I was going to sleep at a friend’s house. I walked toward the door to put on my shoes and Chase asked if he could help me. Before I could even turn back to respond, the type of “help” he was offering became brutally clear.
He shoved me from behind out the front door and into the snow in my bare feet. As I scrambled to gather myself he locked the door behind me and shut off the lights.
I banged on the door. I yelled for him through chattering teeth. I begged for my shoes but, as my feet went numb in the icy snow, my phone buzzed in my pocket. It was Chase. He was going to bed. “Go to your friend’s house,” he wrote.
The next day I went to retrieve my stuff from his house. I’d had enough of the abuse. But the second I walked through the door he began to cry.
He told me how terrible he was. He told me that he was very sorry. He promised that it would never happen again. And because of my low self-esteem, I believed him. And he changed. Things got “better.” For a short time, at least.
And then it happened for the last and final time.
Once again, we had been drinking at a party together. We got home and began to argue in his bedroom and, as I watched him grow increasingly enraged I decided it was best to leave. I went silent and tried to escape, but he blocked my path to the door. I tried to move past him, but he kept bumping me back with his chest. Finally, I took a run at the door.
Chase caught me before I could reach the knob and threw me across the room. I slammed through his closet door. Chase started to cry as I stared up at him from the splintered mess he’d thrown me into. I called a friend to come pick me up. He begged me to stay, but I knew I had to leave, and now I had the courage to do so. I had started secretly seeing a counselor in the last few months of our relationship and her words gave me the strength to pull myself from that closet door, stand up and walk away. As I walked out he screamed and punched a hole in the wall. That was the last time I saw Chase. I broke up with him over the phone because my counselor didn’t think it's as safe for me to be around him.
I’d never imagined that anything like that would ever happen to me, but it did. But there was help out there, and it was all around me. All you had to do was reach out. My friends had warned me. My family had urged me to reconsider. And, ultimately, my counselor gave me the strength to walk away. If she hadn’t, I don’t know if I would have ever had the strength to stand up and leave.
If you’re reading this, I urge you to hear my story. Do your research. Identify the red flags of an abusive relationship. I look back and they were everywhere. Today, I understand more than ever that domestic violence can happen to anyone; but it’ not your fault, and there is always help. There is always a way out.
Your safety and self-worth are the most important things in life and it is your right to be in a happy and fulfilling relationship. Don’t let anyone take that from you.