Well, what if ‘she’ wasn’t a she at all? For too long, the male victims of domestic violence have been just as ridiculed and silenced as women.
I was nineteen years old, and the only care I had in this world was whether I could afford to go out drinking three nights that week or just the one. I had a lovely little life, a full-time job in a shop, money coming in, and good friends until I went on a night out in Manchester. It’s so melodramatic to say, but it’s true – that night changed my entire life. That night, I met a guy, who I will call He/Him. He was cheeky and confident and broad, and I fancied the pants off him. I ended up back in his bedroom with a group of his mates, all chilling and listening to music until I ended up dropping off to sleep. Nothing happened, and in the morning he took me back to my friend’s house. I left Manchester later that day, and we vowed that we would keep in touch.
We visited each other once, maybe twice, before I decided I was going to spend the weekend with him in Manchester. There was a party at his place that weekend, and we were all dropping ecstasy like it was going out of style. In fact, a few years later it did go out of style, giving way to an assemblage of other drugs. The next morning I woke up next to him without any memory of the night before, how I’d gotten into bed, or how I was undressed. I should have known there and then. He told me, without an ounce of indignity, that we’d had sex while I was talking to two women who lived in the bedroom wall.
I was nineteen. I can’t recollect what my thoughts on this were at the time, but apparently I saw nothing wrong in this. Now, over a decade later, I know what word I would use to describe this event.
I don’t know what possessed me. I was having a good time, and I felt freer than I’d ever felt in my life, and I remember saying to him, “I don’t want to go home”, he said “Well, don’t.”
I called my parents and informed them I wasn’t going to come home, and that I’d come back to collect my things. I had absolutely no thought in my mind of what this would do to my Mum and Dad, left in Liverpool wondering what their young son was up to in another city.
The relationship continued to be fun, and I took more and more ecstasy, replacing alcohol almost completely on nights out. I hadn’t noticed the subtle ways in which he’d already begun to control me: “you don’t need to work, I can look after you”, “don’t wear that, wear this”, “what if you did your hair like this instead”. I got a job anyway as a supervisor in a now-defunct clothing store in Stretford Arndale. The job didn’t last long because of what happened next.
We were out on a Sunday afternoon in a pub near the house. His friends were there, laughing and joking, and he said something sexual about me. I was mortified, because it was in front of everyone, and they all thought it was normal. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember feeling not just embarrassed, but defenceless. I excused myself and went outside to call my Mum. I explained to her that I wasn’t enjoying Manchester any more and that I wanted to come home.
After I finished the call, I turned around and there he was – the angriest face on a man that I think I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know what he had to be angry about, and I was about to go back inside when he started shouting. I didn’t know what else to do so I ran off toward the house. I wasn’t used to confrontations. He chased after me, caught me on the main road, bashed my head five times into the metal poles of a fence, and stood over me shouting more abuse.
Crying, I somehow managed to get to my feet and start running again. I thought I was being clever by taking some back roads toward the house, but these only led back onto the main road where he was waiting. He pushed me to the ground, I remember my jeans ripping, my front teeth scraping the floor, and him shouting “What? What are you looking at?” to two by-passers. They didn’t stop to help. The next part is a haze. I think one of his friends caught up and dragged him off toward the house. I followed some time after. I got to the mirror in the bathroom and saw blood all over my face and head. His friend told me to “wipe it off, he can’t see the blood on you”. I told him he was going to have to look at what he’d done.
Then, he did something very clever. He came downstairs, took one look at me, started crying, took a knife from the kitchen and went out. Well, that was it. How could I leave a man, clearly emotional, on the streets with a knife, scared that he’d hurt himself. Needless to say, after hours of looking, I found him back at home. Unharmed.
The next day he apologised. He apologised the next day after each occasion, even after the time he put me in the hospital with suspected broken ribs. They weren’t broken, and I was released with a few pamphlets on domestic violence. I threw them in the bin on the way to the police station to give a false statement to the kindest man I’d met. He told me there was no need to lie, there was no need to do anything but tell the truth and be happy again. I told him it was just two lads fighting, and in the morning he was released.
Domestic violence isn’t just physical, we all know that; it’s the deliberate emotional and psychological demolition of a person.
I was one of those people. I was smacked about and strangled and kicked, and had knives to my throat, but I was also told I couldn’t have dinner if I questioned his love for me, that I’d need to “think of what it would do to the relationship” if I learned to drive, or got a job again, the threats that his slightly-dodgy brother would do something to me, my friends or my family if I left.
There was one last comment, the final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, one tiny little comment that made me think ‘you are never going to change.’
He was talking to his friends in the living room about his ex-boyfriend, who once had sucked water up the hoover that he’d spilt, probably in a rush to do it before getting a smack for being clumsy. And he said, I can hear it now clear as a bell: “He got a hiding for that, I can tell you.”
It clicked. I wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t the first, and I wasn’t going to be the last. But right then I decided that I wasn’t going to be the one right now.
Now, I’d left multiple times with the help of friends. But a good friend of mine at the time came all the way from Liverpool to collect me and take me back. I packed my small amount of belongings and I left. You might think this is the end of the story, but it’s not.
For months, I used to call and text and really long to go back to what I knew. I was beyond any level of damage that I, or my friends, knew how to handle. I’d go out every night drinking and not want to go home, I’d meet men and want them to hurt me. I felt nothing until I felt pain.
Over ten years later, I sit writing this as a man looking back on a boy he used to know. I feared for that boy’s safety, and more than that, his life.
He didn’t ask to be a victim of domestic violence, but he chose to survive it. He grew up, and he learned his own worth. True, the wind still blows the dirt and dust and uncovers some ancient archaeological history of that period in his life, but in the main he’s healthy and happy. Those who’ve lived through violent relationships are survivors only in the sense that they are no longer in that situation. You can’t, however, survive a memory that is always with you. You live alongside it. It’s your ghost.
Over a year ago… I was in an ex’s bedroom, and we had an argument. He turned nasty, and his voice and face completely changed, I thought: “this is it. This is it all over again.” He didn’t hit me, and instead, he looked concerned. It took me a while to realise I was freezing cold and shaking all over. Now, before this, I’d always thought of myself as stronger than ever. But this was a reminder that I am not healed.
In the years since then I’ve heard ridiculous questions, “why didn’t you just leave? Why didn’t you hit him back? You’re a man too, so it’s not really domestic abuse, is it?”
Well… you try leaving someone who has made you feel like they’re the only person you can depend on. You lift up your hands and make them into a fist against someone you know you’re physically no match for, and you feel like you love. You try having your food taken off you, being beaten for having a smart mouth, and being told you can only do certain things and speak to certain people. Trust me, it really is domestic abuse. It’s no less of a crime, no less of a heart-breaking, world-shattering situation to have been in just because I’m a man too.
All of the black eyes and cuts and bruised bones he gave me during those twelve months are healed, but the psychological and emotional scars are too deep to heal completely. I’m always questioning: am I a survivor yet or not? ?️?
This article was taken from Issue 20 – download our magazine app now and never miss a future issue and was very published on our website in May 2016. It has been updated with new and relative links.
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