Before I begin, I want to tell you that my batterer could be a generous, sweet, charming, sensitive man – capable of giving and receiving an intense and fulfilling level of commitment and passion. I say this not to defend him. You are about to read the negative side of our 3 1/2-year relationship. For you to get a true picture of how this relationship developed, you need to know that there was more to it than the abuse.
Gary grew up in Massachusetts, one of seven brothers. His brothers were into drugs, guns, violence and crime. He had been clean and sober for 3 months when we met. He was very honest about his history and his desire to escape his current way of life. He wanted to allow himself to be gay, but oppressed this desire because he had been taught that gay people could not be happy.
I thought he was cute. I was very attracted to him physically although his personality was not necessarily my type. I wanted to spend time with him, especially to show him that it was possible to be happy in a gay lifestyle. So I did, and we were. We were so happy and it was so satisfying that I fell in love with Gary.
During our first year, Gary stayed sober. He showered me with attention and could always make me smile. Life was wonderful. I finished coming out of the closet because I had finally found someone who meant so much to me that no one else’s opinion mattered.
A little over a year into the relationship, Gary started using drugs again. He would try to hide it and that began the unraveling of the trust between us. Over four months, our relationship quickly deteriorated. Though there were still isolated times of joy, the relationship became a source of constant emotional pain. In May, I tried to break up with Gary. When I told him I couldn’t see him anymore, he became hysterical. He threatened suicide and I believed him. I gave in although I knew I needed to get out of the relationship.
As I saw his drug-related behaviors becoming more risky, I withdrew from some of our sexual practices. It was at this time that he was first violent with me. During an argument, he pushed me so hard into a wall that I caved in the sheetrock. He was immediately apologetic and swore that it would never happen again.
However, I was soon to learn more about Gary’s capacity for violence. He and a co-worker were having an ongoing confrontation. Gary threatened violence for a couple of weeks. Then, on a Sunday morning, after staying out all night drinking, Gary went over to the co-worker’s house, rang the bell, and greeted the co-worker as he opened the door by beating him with a club. Gary hurt the co-worker, but the co-worker was sober and soon dominated the fight. I met up with Gary – his face badly beaten, cut open, covered in blood – as he was preparing to go back and try again. This occasion set in my mind Gary’s potential for violence and his inclination towards it. His threats now carried new weight.
It was during this time that a friend of mine was throwing a party to which I would have liked to have gone. Gary informed me that if I went without him, he would wait outside and shoot me when I came out – or crash the party and just start shooting. I believed he was capable of either of these threats and I did not go.
Although I felt that we were slowly drifting apart, Gary would continually surprise me with a renewed vigor and intensity about the relationship. He would simply forget all the bad things that happened and expect me to still be in a committed relationship with him. To contradict his perspective was asking for conflict. Once, as I was reiterating the reasons for why I could no longer trust him, he punched me in the face. He immediately apologized and swore it would never happen again.
On Thanksgiving, Gary got very drunk. I helped him into his apartment and he asked if I would spend the night. I said no. Would I take a shower with him? I said no. Would I just lay down with him for a moment on the bed? I said no. I wanted to get out of there so I set his alarm clock for work and started putting him to bed. We had gotten his boots off when he just snapped. He threw me on the bed, pinned me down and said “If I can’t have you, then I can’t stand for anyone else to have you. I’m going to kill you.” I knew he was serious.
I told him I didn’t want this to happen and he punched me in the face. And, he asked how it felt to know I was going to die. He went on to talk about how he was going to kill me – with his knife or maybe his gun. But first he was going to rape me. Gary was much stronger and I could not get out of his hold. Even if I could squirm free, the studio apartment was very small with a double lock on the door. By the time I could get the two locks open, he would be on top of me. The only way out, in my mind, was to have Gary let me go.
I could tell by the way he was positioning my hands above my head and trying to hold both with one hand that his next step would be to tie them together. I knew once that happened I would not be able to physically stop him. And, emotionally he would have crossed so far over the line that he would not turn back. Every time he tried to hold my hands together, I was able to get one hand free. Instead of fighting back with that hand, I would stroke his torso and reassure him with my words. “No, I’m not going to leave you. I love you. Please just lay down with me for a minute.”
I can’t explain exactly how the transition occurred; but somehow, with a mixture of the distraction of my words, the distraction of my touch and his desire to be held, I finally broke through his determination and he allowed himself to lay on top of me.
My goal then became to put him to bed so that I could get out. Midway through, he snapped again and pinned me with renewed determination. A cycle similar to the first occurred; and again, I was able to distract him. I realized there was no way he was going to allow me to put him to bed and leave the apartment alone. I suggested a walk to get cigarettes so that we could talk. He agreed.
I hurriedly put his boots back on him and a sweat shirt. As we were zipping up his jacket, he snapped for a third time, pinning me up against the wall. Again we went through the struggle. Eventually, I was able to get him to allow us to go outside. Once we got out the front door, I knew I was safe. In his wasted state, I could easily out run him. From the time I entered his apartment to this point, 3 1/2 hours had gone by.
The next day, I packed what I could in my car (including my dog), and left my house for good. It was my intention to leave the state and move as far away as possible. Gary had allowed himself to almost kill me. The next time I would not be able to stop him.
I was persuaded to stay a few days, hiding out at a co-workers house, so that I could meet with a victim advocate to explore my options. The victim advocate was very nice and supportive; but, all he could offer besides goodwill was assistance in pressing charges or taking out a restraining order. Neither choice was an option for me. In my mind, either would have only served to galvanize Gary in a commitment to search me out and get revenge. There was no way a restraining order would protect me from an angry Gary.
I also discovered there were no shelters available to me. As a gay male victim of domestic violence, I was left to fend for myself. Making my situation even more difficult, my HMO failed to acknowledge or respond to my needs. Gary and I used the same center and the mental health department was dangerously incompetent. I told them that I couldn’t come into the center due to my fear of running into Gary and I asked if, during this time of crisis, I could meet my therapist outside my center? Or could they assign me to a therapist at another center? They said “no.” They said my only option was to formally change health centers – a process which would mean weeks before getting an appointment with a therapist. So, there I was. No shelter, no mental health support, no legal options which provided any glimpse of security. I was on my own at a point of extreme anxiety and crisis.
Luckily, my employers came through with unending support. I was kept on salary for the next month and a half while I was unable to do any work. At the insistence of my employer, I pursued my own trauma therapist. And, when no shelters where available, my employer’s parents, virtually strangers to me at this point, provided me with a place to stay. I was fortunate. Without an amazingly understanding and committed employer, I would have fled – alone at a time of crisis when I could not take care of myself.
During this time, I had to literally disappear from all of my friends. After a month and a half, I got an apartment on the other side of the city and slowly started going back to work. I rented an underground garage space a block away from work so that Gary would not see my car in the lot. I would go into work and leave an hour early so that if Gary ever checked to see if I was still around he wouldn’t catch me coming or going. I sold my car and bought a different kind. My calls were strictly screened at work, anyone not recognized was told that I no longer worked there.
With every day that went by, I began to feel that staying might be possible. But living in hiding was wearing on me. I also knew that if I stayed I would eventually run into Gary. The idea that I was hiding from him would make Gary angry and that scared me. If I was to stay in Boston, I had to tell Gary that I was doing so. With the help of my therapists, I drafted a letter which informed Gary of my decision to stay. It outlined my rules and threatened a restraining order.
Over the course of the next year, we had scattered encounters. He became involved with another man; and although I knew I couldn’t allow my barriers to come down, I felt a little safer. Occasionally, we had conversations, maybe once every two months. The conversations might last for thirty minutes. He would tell me all the positive things that were happening in his life and I would say I was happy for him. I was never able to share any aspect of what was happening in my life.
A little more than a year and a half after I had left, I got a call from Gary. He wanted to get together . I was firm. I said I couldn’t see him. Four Days later, his lover called and told me that Gary had hung himself over the weekend.
There were a wide range of emotions that went through me during the week that followed as I went to his funeral and met the people who had been part of his life over the past two years. Mostly, I found myself overwhelmed with sadness as I was finally able to allow myself remember the good, the wonderful aspect of Gary which I had buried while he was alive for fear that I would not be able to stay away.
It is because of Gary’s death that I am able to tell my story publicly.