“After years of being beaten and emotionally abused, I managed to gather the strength and courage to leave him. I thought that finally, I was in the clear! But how wrong I was…
“He beat the crap out of one of my buddies–to find out where I was! And before you know it, he ‘popped up’ on me, and…”
These are the words from a victim of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A)–the term used for domestic violence and abuse within the LGBTQ Community. Unfortunately for him, his torture didn’t end–-even though he managed to separate from his abuser. Part Two of “Will It Ever End???” is his story.
Anyone (and I do mean anyone) can become a victim of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse–regardless of size, strength, age, gender, race/ethnicity, station in life or sexual orientation. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines IPV/A as “a pattern of behaviors utilized by one partner (the abuser or batterer) to exert and maintain control, through fear and intimidation, over another person (the survivor or victim) where there exists an intimate, loving and dependent relationship.” It is estimated that each year, between 50,000-100,000 lesbians (or more) and as many as 500,000 (or more) gay/SGL (same gender loving) men are battered. About one in four LGBTQ relationships/ partnerships are abusive in some way.
As I stated in Part One of “Will It Ever End???”, one of the most pervasive and entrenched myths regarding IPV/A is that victims will be safe if they could simply leave their abusers. In fact, 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.
However, leaving doesn’t usually put an end to the violence and abuse. Time and time again, this can be the most dangerous point in a relationship. This period is what’s called Separation Violence and Assault. I give it the acronym, SVA.
According to www.aardvarc.org, a respected domestic violence information website, “Instead, (leaving) actually increases dynamics of violence and can initiate new levels of violence and new forms of retaliation from the abuser to the victim. In fact, 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 Malik, a thirty-three-year-old, 5’9”, compactly and tightly built African-American, experienced. He’s an engaging, articulate and polished manager with the Federal Government.
Malik’s ex-partner is T. J., who was a security guard for his agency. He described the Black twenty-nine-year-old as “damned good-looking,” a little over six feet, and “clocking in” at 220 pounds. And powerfully built.
According to Malik, he suffered horrific emotional, mental and physical abuse at the hands of T. J. for more than two years.
Recently, the rapidly-rising professional sat down with me, graciously and bravely sharing his particularly harrowing and heartbreaking account of IPV/A—and the SVA on the heels of it.
Malik is a friend of an acquaintance of mine who stated that before the violence and abuse, Malik had an inner glow, an inner light that emanated from his saucer-like, hazel eyes.
But during his ordeal, not so much.
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 its outgrowth, Separation Violence and Assault.
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 seems to flicker in those gorgeous eyes!) In 2012, 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, hell yeah. (I’m chuckling.)
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! Well now, as they say, “inquiring minds wanna know:” who finally made the 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 by himself 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 other 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: So buddy, you turned “ovah dem digits,” eh?
Malik. “Sho’ nuff.” (He nods, smiling.)
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 the security job at my agency.
Wyatt: Malik, was any of that a “red flag” for you?
Malik: 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 type of guys, who have that “daddy vibe” goin’ on. (Pause.) And his body and looks very much added to the appeal! And, I have to admit that I was emotionally needy.
Wyatt: Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse 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: Which was?
Malik: Mrs. K’s Toll House Restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Wyatt: I knew that eatery well. It’s quaint, has a relaxed ambience, and provides impeccable service. One of my favorites.
Wyatt: How did that first date turn out?
Malik: First, I was nervous as hell! I waited for him in the lobby. He was like twenty 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?
Wyatt: He squeezed my ass in the parking lot.
Wyatt: (Grinning.) “Lawd,” I pretty much know what happened next.
Malik: I’ll keep it “PG” and just say that the sex—the lovemaking—was passionate, red-hot, mind-blowing! Wyatt, I’ll use your coined word of “HAWT!”
Wyatt: Well, what was the “afterwards” 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. said that he was “on the same page.”
“The Honeymoon Phase Always Ends for Everyone.”—Rose Leslie, Actress, “Game of Thrones.”
Wyatt: Alright. Now, 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. Hey: I was seeing relationship potential.
Wyatt: I see. Now, how did you guys handle/navigate the fact that you both worked at the same job site?
Malik: We were cool! Extremely. Kept it all on the DL—we made certain that 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 you?
Malik: About three months in. And, I was clueless.
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 f**cking 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, “Dang! I’m so lucky that this guy wants me and is so into me.” I was becoming his possession.
Wyatt: And as you and I know, there was more to it. (Pause.) Would you mind sharing?
Malik: Wyatt, as I’ve said earlier, I was so emotionally needy! (At this point, he hesitates.) You see, I’m Poz (HIV-Positive). 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’m infected! 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 from weeping.) I know, I know. When I look back at it, I feel just f**cking horrible.
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 on a regular basis, 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 fu**kin’ “cray-cray.” I felt like such a loser, so powerless. So worthless. Deeply depressed.
Wyatt: Easy, Malik. I’m so sorry. Take your time.
Malik: (Not meaning to cut me off, he kept going.) The “muf**ker” pressured me into sex! He’d make me do stuff I really didn’t wanna do, that…you know, made my skin crawl…”
(In my talks with victims of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, I hear this “storyline” over and over again. And each time, it saddens me. Profoundly.)
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.) I was absolutely petrified! Those threats “really kept me in line.”
Wyatt: When did the physical violence and abuse began?
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 of 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. (He added:) T. J. was a clever one—he made sure NOT to damage my face in subsequent beatings, so that folk wouldn’t talk.
Malik: On top of all that, he had the audacity to blame me for his actions! He’d yell, “It’s all your fault, dammit! You make me do what I do! You’re fu**kin’ lucky to have me, considering you’re Poz!” And when he cooled down, 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: It was in August of last year. T. J. 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. Cray-cray mood swings. I could barely function at work—at life. Everyone noticed, because I just wasn’t my authentic self!
Malik: One of the doctors knew I was an IPV/A victim. He was thirty-something, “really together,” and gay/SGL.
Malik: Staring at me dead in the eyes, he said something like, “Look. I don’t mean to get all up in your ‘bizness’ (business), 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 made the decision 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 one of my good friend’s sister: 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. 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. The list goes on and on.
Wyatt: You’d made your Great Escape, of sorts. But I know that wasn’t the end of it. This is where the Separation Violence and Assault (SVA) begins, correct?
Malik: My God, yes.
“Separation Violence and Assault: It’s NO Joke.”
Wyatt: Malik, explain your experience with SVA.
Malik: You see, T. J. was feeling powerless–which royally pissed him off. I was no longer his “possession.” Soooooo, 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 tell him where I was—and when I’d be back.
Wyatt: “Geesus Chryist.”
Malik: And when I came back, the next day, T. J. was ready. He “popped up” on me at the apartment–and physically assaulted me.
Wyatt: Malik, what was the aftermath?
Malik: That was it for me! My friend and I filed charges against T. J. He’s doing some 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’s helping me to heal.
Wyatt: Malik, what advice do you have for victims of Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, and its outgrowth, 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.
(Thankfully, Malik’s inner glow, his inner light is returning—ray by ray.)
As I emphasized in Part One of “Will It Ever End?” even though leaving may prove terribly unsafe, continuing to cohabitate with your abuser may prove to be downright deadly. As I state in my national seminars and workshops, making your Great Escape involves and entails well thought-out, deliberate, strategic–and above all–careful planning. And, making that Great Escape is absolutely necessary.
And remember: it is imperative that you tell anyone who will listen, particularly those you really trust. And, the following is extremely important: know your legal rights. You have a right to equal protection of the law. You have a right to live free of violence, threats, and abuse of any kind.
Make it your mission to conduct research to ascertain exactly what your rights are where you live. The internet is for so much more than just Facebook and Twitter.
There are officials and institutions that can help you free yourself from Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse. These include the 911 operator, police, county jail, district attorney and victim assistance. Become knowledgeable about, and avail yourself of these crucial resources so that you can make your Great Escape.
Here’s the bottom line: you cannot—and must not—stay in a violent, abusive relationship.
Need to make your Great Escape? The Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project can help, 24/7. Call: 1-800-832-1901. Or, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.