Dennis was 22 when he got involved with Alex. In the beginning, Alex was a very fun and caring man. Living in Florida at the time, they spent most days at the beach. They had a lot of fun and grew very close. Alex introduced Dennis to Cuban cooking and Dennis got him to like country music.
Four months into the relationship, Alex was supposed to join Dennis at a 4th of July barbecue. When Alex finally arrived it was after 5 o’clock, and he was very irritable. Dennis mentioned that it was too late to go to the barbecue and Alex grew angry and violent. Alex slapped Dennis and pushed him over a chair. Just as suddenly as the violence had started, it stopped. Alex apologized, fixed dinner, and served it to Dennis in bed.
Then next morning Dennis awoke with extreme discomfort in his chest. He went to the hospital, and though the doctor found that Dennis had cracked ribs, he neglected to screen Dennis for domestic violence. Dennis never told Alex about his ribs. He believed Alex would never hurt him again.
Over the next few months, they spent as much time together as possible. Alex showed an increased interest in the relationship. During this period, Alex was sometimes violent when he was preparing to visit his family. He would slap Dennis, pin him down, or push him away. The violence would last for no more than a few minutes and would always conclude with an apology. Alex blamed the violence on the stress of dealing with his family.
Thinking everything would get better if they lived together, Dennis and Alex moved into an apartment on New Year’s day. Dennis hoped for a new beginning. But the violence only increased.
While Dennis was at work, Alex would often borrow his car and be responsible for picking Dennis up from work at 4 p.m. He would never show up on time, often arriving one to four hours late, forcing Dennis to publicly wait for him. “All of my coworkers were aware of the situation. I was humiliated. I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t happening.” Eventually, there was an argument about the car. Alex pushed Dennis down the stairs, breaking his jaw in two places. Dennis had to spend two days in the hospital and his jaw was wired shut for 6 weeks. Again, hospital personnel never inquired about the nature of Dennis’ injuries.
When Dennis got out of the hospital, sex was the last thing on his mind. But, at any sign of hesitation, Alex would act insulted and become forceful. “We would get into bed with him raring to go and me just wanting a warm place to hide. The less interested I was in his physical desires, the more mad and more insistent he became.” One night, after Dennis told Alex that he wanted to be left alone, Alex pinned him down and repeatedly punched him, rupturing his spleen. Dennis spent another two weeks in the hospital, and his spleen was removed.
Even after his time in the hospital, the attacks on Dennis and the horror that came with them continued. Alex’s violence eventually tore open Dennis’ intestines. “My insides hurt so much that I could only eat one meal a day and I weighed 118 pounds. I was exhausted, having just enough energy to get through work and come home to sleep.” His insides never healed and he had to return to the hospital for six more weeks, including four days in critical care after extensive intestinal surgery. During all of these weeks, Alex only visited Dennis in the hospital four times.
But when Dennis came home from the hospital he was greeted with flowers in the bedroom and all his favorite foods in the refrigerator. For several weeks Alex was very attentive to Dennis’ needs, running errands, doing the shopping, and cooking meals.
Due to continuous complications from his wounds, Dennis needed further surgery to stop some internal bleeding. His employer fired him for taking too much time off work. Dennis became financially dependant. Alex paid all the bills, and made all the decisions on what they ate and where they went.
Unable to find another job and with his disability compensation about to expire, Dennis decided to move back to New Hampshire to be with his parents. “I thought of it as a chance to take a break from the strain of everyday life and pull myself together.” He left with only the clothes on his back, leaving everything with Alex.
At first Dennis and Alex spoke every week, but as time passed they grew further apart. Dennis began a new life in the Northeast, free from his batterer. He found a job with health insurance, and was finally able to get more treatment for the medical complications from his abuse. He spent three weeks in the hospital for two different surgeries and four more months in physical therapy.
Today he lives with pain and stiffness in his jaw from the break. He has had pneumonia twice as a result of having his spleen removed, and has to take daily medications to control the ulceration of the remains of his intestines. After a total of 82 days in the hospital Dennis had never once been asked by medical personnel if he was a victim of domestic violence.
“Prior to Alex, I had never been exposed to domestic violence through either experience or education. I am sure I was aware of it abstractly through the media, but I never made the logical progression to realize that I, as a gay man, could be a victim. By not recognizing the abuse as domestic violence, I never thought to reach out for help.” While he considers himself lucky to have removed himself from the relationship, the physical trauma of it will stay with him forever.
Over the past ten years Dennis has been educating the community by sharing his experience as a survivor of domestic violence. He has served as the Treasurer of GMDVP’s Board of Directors, and is a frequent public speaker.