We’re nearly at the end of October, designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). I decided to close out this special recognition by republishing the story of Malik, a survivor of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A), whom I interviewed three years ago. What makes Malik’s story so impactful is that he survived Separation Violence and Assault (SVA), an extremely dangerous period that more often than not occurs right at the tail end of IPV/A.
One of the most pervasive and entrenched myths regarding IPV/A is that victims will be safe if they could just leave their abusers. Far too many people believe that victims are free to leave their abusers at any time–and will naturally do so once the level of violence becomes “enough” to force that change.
Usually, however, leaving doesn’t put an end to the violence and abuse. Time and time again, this can be the most dangerous point in a relationship. That’s when Separation Violence and Assault, or SVA, kicks in.
According to www.aardvarc.org, a respected domestic violence information website, “Instead, (leaving) increases dynamics of violence and can initiate new levels of violence and new forms of retaliation from the abuser to the victim. Many abusers believe that the victim ‘belongs to them and that as such, they are fully justified in doing whatever it takes to make sure that ‘their property’ remains theirs.” In an attempt to force the victim to reconcile with him/her, an abuser may escalate the violence.
That’s exactly what happened to thirtysomething Malik, an African-American professional for the federal government. His abusive partner, T.J.—also Black and in his late twenties—was a security guard. And powerfully built.
According to Malik, for more than two years, he suffered horrific emotional, mental, and physical abuse at the hands of T. J.
In our interview, Malik bravely shared his harrowing and heartbreaking IPV/A experience—with SVA hard on the heels of it. Though fortunately for Malik, he made it through the storm.
Wyatt: Malik, thanks so much for agreeing to tell us your important story, one that shines a bright light on both Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, and Separation Violence and Assault, which more often than not, springs from it.
Malik: Sure, Wyatt. Glad to be of help.
Wyatt: So Malik, let’s begin here: when and how did you meet T. J.?
Malik: Oh, I remember it well! (Light flickers in his captivating eyes.) He was hired as a security guard at my D.C. agency. (Malik no longer lives in metro Washington.) I came to work one February morning, and he was there.
Wyatt: What were your initial impressions of him?
Malik: Gawd, Wyatt! It was like this instant, organic attraction! T. J. was so masculine, dominant, commanding. He’d served in the military and had that daddy thang goin’ on. The attraction, the chemistry between us was instantaneous! It was like, “booyah!” Know what I mean?
Wyatt: Oh, I feel ya
Malik: People talk about my eyes. But his were, like, these sharp, probing, and penetrating eagle eyes! Simply mesmerizing.
Wyatt: What happened next?
Malik: Oh how I fought the attraction! But only for a little bit. (Pause.) But he didn’t. He “got off” on flirting with me—coolly, strategically, discretely. Soon, I did a little of it myself. Hell, I couldn’t wait to see him when I entered the building in the morning, when I exited, etc.
Wyatt: Whoa! So, who finally made the real first move?
Malik: (He smiles.) T. J. did! Usually, there was another guard with him at the post. However, one Friday at lunch, about three weeks after we’d first laid eyes on each other, he was solo for a few minutes. And, I was the only person walking towards him.
Wyatt: This is getting good!
Malik: The brotha used those few minutes quite well! Getting up on me, he whispered, “Yo, look. Let’s stop the games. Since we’re both attracted to one another, let’s get to know each otha much better.” To say the least, I got flushed and red in the face.
Malik: Then quickly looking around and without missing a beat, he added, “Before somebody else walks up, write yo’ digits on here (slip of paper), and I’ll buzz ya tonight.” Instead of giving me his number, he demanded mine. The whole thing was like, “Rat-a-tat-tat! (Pause.) But I loved it.
Wyatt: When did he call?
Malik: That night. We had a long conversation—I learned that he was a Vet, having done a tour in Afghanistan. After that, he floated from job to job…I could tell he was a bit lost, had a lack of direction…he was trying to find his way. He said that college didn’t interest him. Then, he got a security job at my agency.
Wyatt: Malik, was any of that a red flag for you?
Malik: No…not really. But maybe it should have been. However, Wyatt, I thought to myself, “He is working. And who knows? I just might be able to help him ‘find himself’, and inspire him to reach his fullest potential.”
Malik: (Quickly, he added:) I was just so turned on by his masculinity, his forcefulness, his dominance! I’m into those types of guys, who have that daddy vibe goin’ on. (Pause.) And his body and looks very much added to the appeal! And I was emotionally needy.
Wyatt: Perpetrators of IPV/A pick up on that immediately–and exploit the hell out of it! So, what happened next?
Malik: (Taking a deep breath.) Well, he proposed—no actually, he told me—that we’d have lunch the next afternoon, that Saturday. I liked his take-charge attitude. However, he did allow me to choose the place.
Wyatt: Soooo…how did that first date turn out?
Malik: First, I was nervous as hell! I waited for him in the lobby. He was like 20 minutes late. I didn’t know what was up—no call, no text.
Wyatt: He didn’t show?
Malik: Actually, he did! But with no explanation. He just walked up to me, gave me a sly smile, and ushered me to the reservation person. As we were led to our table, I started to sweat and my knees began to shake.
Malik: But almost immediately, he put me at ease! And Wyatt, he smelled good, looked good—showing off his muscles. S**t, I was hooked!
Malik: It was awesome! And boy, did he serve up the sexual innuendos.
Malik: After the meal, he said, “Yo. Let’s go to your place to get better acquainted.” And with a wink, he added, “Don’tcha think it’s time?” (Pause.) I agreed. And guess what?
Malik: He squeezed my ass in the parking lot.
Wyatt: Oh, oh.
Malik: Of course, we ended up in bed. Now, I’ll keep it PG and just say that the sex—the lovemaking—was passionate, red-hot, mind-blowing! Hawt.
Wyatt: Well, what was the aftermath like?
Malik: I told him that I was NOT into booty calls; that at the very least, I was looking for just one guy as a sex buddy. T. J. claimed that he was “on the same page.”
“The Honeymoon Phase Always Ends for Everyone.”—Rose Leslie, Actress, “Game of Thrones.”
Wyatt: Alright. You guys were in what we call the Honeymoon Phase.
Malik: (As he laughs out loud, his captivating hazel eyes light up.) Correct! Man, things between us were great! The sex got hotter and hotter! It became a freakin’ drug.
Malik: T. J. was attentive. We enjoyed doing things together, etc., etc. I was seeing relationship potential.
Wyatt: How did you guys handle/navigate that you both worked at the same job site?
Malik: We were cool! Extremely. Kept it all on the DL—we made certain no one knew what was up.
Wyatt: Malik, at some point during the honeymoon period, the abuser starts to reveal his true self. When did that happen to you?
Malik: About three months in.
Wyatt: Malik, thinking back, what were some signs?
Malik: Here we go: if I went out to lunch, asking me where I was going. Constantly calling and texting, keeping tabs on me. After work, wanting me with him nearly 24/7. Isolating me from family and friends. Strongly suggesting how I should think and act, and what I should wear.
Malik: When you think about it, it was mind-control. And he was so “slick” about it all! It was a fucking brilliant strategy.
Malik: (His eyes fogging up.) But I liked it and felt flattered–at first. You see, I believed he was demonstrating his love. I kept saying to myself, “Damn! I’m so lucky that this guy wants me and is so into me.” I was becoming his possession.
Wyatt: Malik, I get the feeling there was more to the situation, how you were feeling. You mind sharing?
Malik: Wyatt, as I’ve said earlier, I was so emotionally needy! (He hesitates.) You see, I’m poz. Thankfully, I’m healthy with an undetectable viral load. I thought, over and over, “Wow! This hot, masculine, HIV-Neg guy wants me, even though I’ve got the virus! Me!” So, I became very anxious to please him and found myself agreeing to much of everything he said and did.
Wyatt: Classic IPV/A.
Malik: (He shakes his head, and tries to stop weeping.) I know, I know! When I look back at it, I feel just fucking horrible.
The First Strike.
Wyatt: Things escalated, correct?
Malik: Indeed! T. J. said he was having financial difficulties, was months behind in his rent, and they were going to kick him out. So, I agreed to have him move in with me. (Pause.) But actually, it was more manipulation, coercion on his part. Worst decision I could’ve ever made.
Malik: As T. J. expressed excessive jealousy towards my family and friends, the isolation intensified. He insulted my intelligence—I realized he was jealous of my position at work. He humiliated me regularly, calling me all kinds of derogatory names. He’d yell at me constantly. He controlled my spending.
Malik: (Now, beginning to out-and-out cry.) In effect, I was his property! The situation was nuts, “cray-cray!” I felt like such a loser, felt so powerless. So worthless! I was deeply depressed.
Wyatt: Easy, Malik. Take your time.
Malik: The mufucker pressured me into sex! He’d make me do stuff I really didn’t wanna do, that…you know, made my skin crawl…”
Wyatt: You told me that T. J. threatened to “out” your HIV status.
Malik: He did. On numerous occasions.
Wyatt: Malik, how did that make you feel?
Malik: (Inhaling.) Absolutely petrified! He knew that would keep me in line.
Wyatt: When did the physical violence and abuse begin?
Malik: One night, we were at a club, where I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in like eons! He embraced me, just a friendly hug. Without warning, he pulled the guy off me and dragged me out of the club.
Malik: (Now, he’s crying.) Oh, yeah. In my apartment, he beat the crap out of me! I had to miss nearly a week of work because of the black eye. However, during subsequent beatings, he made sure not to inflict any more visible injuries.
Malik: On top of all that, he dared to blame me for his actions! He’d yell, “It’s all your fault, dammit! You make me do what I do! You’re fuckin’ lucky to have me, considering you’re poz!” And then, he’d force himself on me sexually.
Makin’ that “Great Escape!”
Wyatt: So, when did your epiphany arrive, the realization that you had to make your “Great Escape?”
Malik: Well, T. J. really lost control and had beaten me so badly that I had to be hospitalized for days. But before that, I’d become chronically depressed—morose, unusually quiet, so very timid, etc., etc. Horrible mood swings. I could barely function at work; actually, at life. Everyone noticed something was really wrong.
Malik: One of the doctors immediately figured out that I was an IPV/A victim. Staring at me dead on, he said something like, “Look. I don’t mean to get all up in your stuff, but I know your partner has been assaulting you. If you don’t get help soon, you’ll be in the morgue.” Then, his eyes softened, and he said, “Lemme help you. My brother has been through what you’re going through. Like I told him, ‘You’re better than this’.”
Wyatt: Wow. Did you heed his warning, take his advice?
Malik: I did. That hospital stay was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me! That’s when I decided to split from T. J.
Malik: Fortunately, T. J. didn’t show up at the hospital, although he called. I acted like everything was just hunky-dory, so as not to alert him. Meanwhile, the doc informed me of resources I could tap into, and he had a counselor come in to talk with me.
Malik: And, I developed a plan—which included a sister of a good friend, who just happened to be a cop.
Wyatt: The plot thickens.
Malik: True. When I was released, “Madame Officer” accompanied me home. She asked me if I wanted to press charges. I answered, “No, I don’t have the stomach for it. I just want him out of my space.”
Wyatt: Whoa! Was T. J. there?
Malik: Oh, yeah! She made him gather up all of his crap. (His name was not on the lease.) Next, she gave him one helluva stern warning NOT to contact me again—that she and her “friends” would be watching. Finally, she made him leave.
Wyatt: Dang! What was his reaction?
Malik: Totally blindsided! Livid. Then confused and intimidated.
Wyatt: You’d made your Great Escape. But that wasn’t the end of it. This is where the Separation Violence and Assault (SVA) begins, correct?
Malik: My God, yes.
SVA Ain’t NO Joke.
Wyatt: Malik, explain your SVA experience.
Malik: You see, T. J. was feeling powerless–which royally pissed him off. I was no longer his “possession.” He blew up my phone, trying to convince me to take him back. When that didn’t work, he threatened me with physical violence. He threatened to out my status. His nastiness intensified, dramatically. I was completely stressed out. I was scared out of my mind.
Wyatt: It’s my understanding that you left the area for a few days, to get some relief. But while you were away, something terrifying occurred.
Malik: Yes. I went to Manhattan to visit a friend. When T. J. discovered I wasn’t in D.C., he went ballistic.
Wyatt: Damn. What happened next?
Malik: He confronted my best friend, beat the crap outta him, forcing him to reveal where I was—and when I’d be back.
Malik: When I came back the next day, T. J. was ready. He popped up on me at the apartment–and physically assaulted me.
Wyatt: The aftermath?
Malik: My buddy and I filed charges against T. J. He’s doing jail time.
Wyatt: Malik, you finally made your “Great Escape.” How does it feel?
Malik: Wyatt, it’s indescribable! I got a job transfer and am thriving in another state.
Wyatt: I’m a strong proponent of counseling. Did you go that route?
Malik: I sure did! It was one of the best things I could’ve ever done. It has helped me to heal.
Wyatt: Malik, what advice do you have for victims of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, and Separation Violence and Assault?
Malik: The bottom line is this: you deserve better. And if you want quality of life–and if you value your life–you have to find a way out! It’s as simple as that.
Wyatt: Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Malik! You’re an inspiration to us all.
Malik: I was happy to do it.
Until We Meet Again…
I’ve made it my ongoing–and fervent–mission to continue to shine a bright light on IPV/A, a hellish and potentially life-threatening, cycle of dysfunctional behavior. This entire month, and every month…
We Must RISE UP…And Tell Someone! Anyone Who Will Listen. We must make our “Great Escape.”
And always remember: the most powerful weapon the abuser has in his/her arsenal is…SILENCE!
If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV/A, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233); the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Hotline (1-800-832-1901); the Trans Lifeline Hotline (U.S., 877-565-8860. Canada, 877-330-6366).
I have a special IPV/A section right here at Wyattevans.com that includes resources to assist victims. Visit Wyattevans.com/ipva/
The time is NOW to break the cycle!
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