by Rob Darke
Although the relationship ended in 2001, I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about what I had experienced until last year. Part of it was that we had mutual friends, which he has abandoned, to become an anti-gay street preacher in Seattle. Most of them were his friends first, so I felt like I shouldn’t “taint” their memory of their old friend because, as fucked up as it sounds, I loved the guy. I spent a great deal of time defending him to everyone in my life.
As always, it started out as verbal abuse.
I also went through periods when I blamed myself (cliché in action). But there were certainly occasions when I knew what was going on was not OK. I was living a Lifetime storyline that Lifetime movies are made of. When he punched me on my 21st birthday for making a joke in front of friends, I laughed it off. They were quick to pull me aside and say, “Rob, what the fuck?” I brushed it off. There was also the matter of machismo. He was a lot bigger than me. He won the Washington State wrestling championship in high school.
In my experience, so many straight people like to question, “OK, so if it’s two guys, then it’s pretty much no holds barred, right?” Almost like they equate our everyday fights to a mixed martial arts event. I even had one friend who remarked that I was lucky that I could hit my significant other since he couldn’t.
When it first happened, I was stunned. I remember my thought process clearly. It was something along the lines of, “Wait, he is supposed to protect me from the big bad world and he’s making me feel like I need protection from him!”
That night will always stick with me.
We got in an argument over something stupid, like washing the dishes or doing the laundry. He threw a bunch of CDs at me and then punched me. My parents picked us up to go to a play just 30 minutes later. After it happened, I cried on our bed for a good 10 minutes and then got myself ready. My parents arrived, and we went to the play like nothing had happened. I felt like I had to keep my brave face on in front of my parents, lest I face any, “maybe you shouldn’t have moved in with him” comments.
I think the biggest factor for my silence while it was happening was my own pride. I had moved out of my parents’ house when I was 17 to live with this guy who was 26 at the time. I didn’t want to hear, “I told you so.” My parents still don’t know the extent of the abuse. But, even more than that, I felt that gay relationships were so looked down upon by society, that if I had told anyone that my boyfriend was hitting me they would interpret that as all gay couples are unhealthy and abnormal. I thought that it would harm the community at large. So I didn’t say anything.
This was also a major factor in my decision not to call 911 when he tried to rape me one night. Given the way the laws work, I could have gone to jail for domestic violence. While I couldn’t prove that he had tried to rape me, he could certainly show the cops the chunk of his arm I bit off to escape.
Ironically, he developed a cocaine addiction in the last 18 months of our relationship, and became a much more pleasant individual.
The biggest and stupidest irony of those four years was he left me. I was the consummate Lifetime housewife. Luckily, I managed to pay off the $27,000 in debt that we ran up in my name (mostly for him).
As is tradition, his abuse started verbally. In fact he once said something to me that was so severe, I have never been able to repeat it. Needless to say, he managed to string together my greatest fears and all of my insecurities into one sentence. It still haunts me. My last boyfriend once said he doesn’t believe I’m over him. It kind of strikes me because my romantic feelings toward the guy have long since dissipated, but I’m probably not over the abuse. It’s quite possible that I never will be.
On the upside, from my perspective, things have changed so much since then (the late ‘90s). Having gone through a lot more life experiences – he was my first relationship – I think that people would feel that gay couples are just like straight couples if they heard about the abuse some of us have gone through.