Mark's Domestic Abuse Story
Mark's domestic abuse story is clear and touching insight into the life of a male victim of domestic abuse, caught in snapshots of his abusive relationship which documents the link between domestic violence and mental illness. Elequent and touching, a must read.
Part 2: Conwy, Wales. July 1998.
I am in a car park set in the shadow of the magnificent Conwy Castle. I am sat in a stifling Mini Metro on a tropical July afternoon. I have been sat here in this metal sauna for two hours. I am not alone.
That was twelve years ago, yet like many memories it remains and resonates within my mind. Here's why.
Sat beside me was my girlfriend. Her seat was in the reclining position. She had the driving seat, literally in every sense. The humidity in the putrid stale air provided a tropical expectation of angry crickets rattling their vocal legs together to produce a sharp abrasive chant. Click, click.
Click. It was not the crickets because they do not exist. It's the poorly designed mid 1980's car stero cassette player. Inside said technologically inferior device is a cassette single. Not a full album, just a single. That's two songs. An album would have made the forthcoming events less painful. Two songs ... that's roughly six minutes ... then click, click, again and again. Remember we have been in this sweltering, torrid mobile oven for two hours. I curse the fool who invented auto-reverse.
Unbearable relentless heat. Beads of sweat that had trickled down from my forehead into my eyebrows clung there refusing to drip, antagonising my skin in a manner not too dissimilar to the way we clung to each other ignoring the antagonistic nature of our relationship. I could supply a suitable analogy based on a natural phenomena or the survival instincts of a lesser spotted mammal and how they conquer all obstacles to remain alive, but I can't be bothered. I almost resent the thought process.
There was nothing beautiful about the way in which we remained together. People talk about matches made in heaven and love at first sight. It was as if we had been placed together to demonstrate to our respective families and friends, and to those people who became involved in our five year connection, of how not to lay a solid foundation for the rest of your life. This was a destructive attachment centred around her insecurities and my inability to free myself from her.
"Touch me here" she raged, punching at the denim material in the crotch of her jeans. "What? Why?" I quivered pathetically. "Coz I'm telling you to and it's the only way I can have a sex life with you, you impotent fool." I did as I was told. Beneath the thick material I could just make out the contour of her groin under my hand. Moist to the touch but not because of any sexual tension or desire, it was the unbearable sweltering heat contained within our cell made from metal and glass. The engine had been silent for a long while now but no doubt the power being supplied to that infernal device providing a ridiculous soundtrack to our misery added to the silted swamp like unpleasantness that I felt beneath my hand. She told me to move my hand around a bit and look like I was enjoying myself. I wasn't focused on her demands as I sat leaned across her in this bizarre unpleasant scenario. I was desperately trying to formulate plans to deal with this situation which could redirect at any tangent at any given moment. As I clawed to stretch some kind of safety net underneath our vile encounter I became aware of all the possible permutations of what this could unravel. We were out in the relative open in a busy town. It was day time. We could be seen. I could be accused of sexual assault, something she had hinted at in the past. Once while she performed oral sex on me, at her initiation I might add, as a result of me climaxing too soon she felt as if I had rushed the encounter in order for it to be over with quicker. She saw this as a violation and threatened to phone the police and accuse me of oral rape.
She sat bolt upright and I moved backwards with my back to the passenger door, left hand on the dash board and my right curled around the head rest. She accused me of cowardice and being afraid of her. She then emphasised her point by jerking her head forwards to mine. I recoiled and banged my head against the window. She rocked backwards in exaggerated mock horror and produced a sickeningly false laugh. She then spat in my face. Her face was inches from mine. I inhaled and gagged at the stench of her stale saliva. Not content with my humiliation so far, she slowly gathered herself and inhaled deeply and noisily from her nostrils. She then gathered the phlegm that had collected in her throat with a rasping cough.
"Don't move." she commanded. She then coughed and spat her vitriolic spite and vengeance into my face. At that moment I represented everything she despised, all sides of every argument. The blame for her misery was entirely mine. I was a man and she had been hurt my men. I was a boyfriend unable to help her. I was the cause of her turmoil because men had caused it and I couldn't make it go away. Ineffectual and benign. The smell of her spittle and phlegm on my nose and lips together with the unclean heat inside the car reminded me of the aroma in a stagnant school changing room. I moved my hands towards my face to clear my vision and remove the mess but she held my hands low and instructed me to leave it there. Spinelessly, I obeyed. She then returned to her reclining position and glared at me. "I believe you were in the middle of pleasuring me weren't you?" came the sarcastic rhetorical question.
I felt her desperation would stretch to suicide. How could I explain this scenario to my family and friends if we should be seen and this encounter made common knowledge. All very unlikely to happen yet at the same time quite possible. There was no safety net. It had to run its course like everything else with her. We had to run our course, there was no escape unless it was on her terms. How did I get so deeply involved with this damaged cargo? Why did I find it so difficult to entertain the idea of leaving her? Day to day life had become like wading through treacle. The punctuation of sleep only providing any kind of welcome respite.
I was always unable to sleep in in the mornings, always the early riser in my previous happy sheltered existence. Not now. No way. The more time I spent asleep the better. On the occasion of us being away from our family homes, away on holiday or staying over with friends, I never woke her in the morning. I would lie awake listening to her breath, dreading a change in tempo of her breaths that would signal her arrival in what would become another hateful day.
Click, click ... around it went again. There was as much chance of the hysterically inadequate cassette player delivering a different song as there was of me leaving this bitch. The song that was playing was by an American band called, The Connells. It was a lovely nostalgia filled track that we both really liked. Among other things it tells a tale of regret and the songs title, '74/'75 refers to the years in which the circumstances occurred. As the song mesmerised me through repetition, one lyric stood out above all the others. The singer refers to himself in the song stating, "I was your sorry ever after". This small phrase echoed around my head. We could never be a 'happy ever after' couple, but 'sorry ever after' seemed to carry a melancholic acceptance that our future together was more than bleak. This was the era of the multiple format frenzy. Each unit sold contributing toward eventual chart position, so market saturation with as many variations on the same product was inevitable. All hifi gear was catered for; CD single 1, CD single 2, cassette single, 7", 10", 12", picture disc, 12" limited box set with poster and badge, CD single box set with signed lithograph and free sachet of shampoo. The variations were endless. With all these options available you would think the artist would make sure that there was more than two almost identical tracks on the cassette single. Artistic integrity sold out for getting more product on the shelf. No, in this case the record company in question didn't see fit to add a different musical delight from The Connells. After the single edit of '74/75 we were treated to the 12" mix. Exactly the same song only infuriatingly longer. A laughably vulgar audio accompaniment to our misery and humiliation.
As I tried to move my hand away from her private parts she screeched at me not to stop. In a rare moment of courage I shouted back that we were in full public view and God only knows what anyone else would make of this. She then said something that I had feared she might resort to for a long time. What she said displayed quite clearly and without question the terribly low regard she had for herself and for our relationship. This was a psychological test, the one that would reveal how deeply she had been damaged by her past and also how deeply she had affected my grasp on what was acceptable behaviour within a relationship.
She gently pushed my hand away from her groin and clasped it in both her hands. She turned and looked at me. I was immediately filled with false and shortlived hope. She said that we had never been happy together and would never be happy together. At this point I desperately clung to the impossible notion of her finishing with me. I yearned for those words embellished with sympathetic phrases and cliches to tumble from her mouth. How easy that would have been. A quick sorry, a hug and then home to a womb of contentment and safety, resting myself assured that I would give girlfriends a miss for a while.
Within the fleeting milliseconds of moments passing when the brain somehow allows you to conduct a small thesis in a fraction of elapsed time, I wondered for the umpteenth time why I could not simply call it a day, assert my right to leave her and move on. I was given the answer to this all too quickly.
What she said didn't shock me as I had harboured private thoughts that she was capable of making such a torrid suggestion. However, when the words did flow calmly from her mouth, my head pulsed as if I had inhaled a deadly solvent. She said we could end this now by both taking an overdose. A suicide pact. She even said that it would be a beautiful ending to a dreadful story. She was demonstrating the calm that is associated with suicide victims who, having gone through the restless sea of uncertainty, have finally decided that they will take their own life on a particular date. She seemed terrifyingly normal. For the following few minutes she spoke freely about the advantages of such an act. She had clearly thought about this before. She had not thought about it in the way I had conducted a thesis in fleeting milliseconds but in a demonstrative, calculated manner. She was serious.
I realised then in that moment why I was unable to leave her. I simply had to stay because she was capable of killing herself. There was no way that her fractured mind was able to handle that sort of rejection. It would only confirm all of her deepest insecurities. She had to terminate this relationship in order for her to continuing living. If I demonstrated control and ended it, it could possibly bring about her demise. This was not an egotistical arrogant observation, it was the unfortunate reality of a damaged mind.
As I stated in the foreword, it would take a very long time to research and explain how and what got her to the very base of low self esteem. Daily she would walk on the delicate knife edge analysing and deconstructing conversations and passing innocent comments made to or about her. What would be a throw away inconsequential remark to the untraumatised mind could be the catharsis to days or weeks of erratic compulsive behaviour. This behaviour obviously affected her life to the extreme, but also impacted to varying degrees on those around her. Her immediate family to some extent had had to experience this slowly growing within her throughout her life. Both sides, her and her family, had become accustomed to each other. Their expectations of one another were lower than her expectations of me. The knowledge that they were indeed family, I expect brought a level of security for her. The likelihood of them leaving her to cope on her own was unlikely. In her mind, however, I was another matter. I had appeared from outside of her web of trauma. She associated her family as being part of the trauma aswell as a source of support. From me she required only support. Should I fall short in any way of supporting her or meeting her expectations within a relationship then her actions of dismay became extreme.
She was my first experience of a serious girlfriend. I had lived my short life so far under the relatively safe canopy of an unremarkable, safe, some may say sheltered, yet wholly enjoyable family life. I had not encountered any psychological issues in my life other than collective and personal grief for the loss of close family and friends. How was I expected to deal with her when I had neither the apparatus nor experience to hand? I did nevertheless try extremely hard to understand and allow for her actions. However, when you have no frame of reference whatsoever, all attempts are doomed from the outset. She could not grasp that someone occupying the position of 'boyfriend' was unable to say the right thing to ease her troubled mind.
With my hands held in hers she calmly elaborated on her plan. She told me that her Mum was babysitting her sister's kids and that her home was empty. We could drive back there now via the supermarket where we would pick up some vodka and paracetamol. She then suggested placidly that we could even write our own suicide notes. A violent torrent of thoughts raged through my head. I look back now at these thoughts and it terrifies me that I did not just open the car door and literally run for my life. Had her life become to mean more to me than my own, but for all the wrong reasons?
In my panic I said the first thing that came into my head. I told her that you weren't allowed to buy paracetamol in a large quantities anymore to discourage people from doing this very thing. She said that that didn't matter as she had quite a lot at home anyway. Plus there was always the newsagents on the corner if we didn't have enough. To my utter disbelief the next thing to enter my head wasn't related to trying to manoeuvre out of this situation. I started to imagine my own suicide note and the fact that it wouldn't contain any elements of the truth at all. In all probability she would have either dictated it to me or heavily edited what I had written. Don't misunderstand me here. There was no way on earth that I would see this idea through. Something very deep within me was absolutely sure of that. However, the fact that we had negotiated ourselves into this cul de sac and I was still not turning around and sprinting for the give-way sign is a worrying revelation regarding the depth of control and damage she had inflicted on me.
She continued to talk about the practicalites of taking an overdose. She described methods of crushing the pills into powder so as to take as many as possible in one go. She then said that the alcohol would remove any anxiety. It would feel like just going to sleep or being put under general anaesthesia. Self preservation had finally made a long overdue entrance to my mind and I moved from thoughts of dishonest suicide notes to assuming an air of assertive authority and informing her candidly that there was no way on earth that I would take my own life. She immediately accused me of being selfish and only thinking if myself. How could I possibly not want to do this for her? Afterall it was me that had got her into this state.
Had I really got her into this state? Three years earlier when our relationship was in its youth, she had demonstrated signs of carrying baggage from her past. I could tell from those first flurries of emotional outbursts that there was a troubled soul that just needed some unconditional love to set in motion the cogs of recovery. I have a very clear memory of one particular thought process of mine that followed an argument.
In a moment of open hearted sincerity, she had revealed intimate details of one of the many major events in her life that had caused her to become so physically insecure of herself. We were in a hotel room at the time, it was one of the first times that we had spontaneously stayed out overnight following a night on the town. She had allowed me into her harrowing early years and revealed some disturbing truths about her upbringing. I had remained silent throughout her emotional monologue, merely offering gestures of support and understanding throughout. I had no idea what to say to her. When she had finished she asked me just to hold her. I quite willingly obliged. It was horrible to think that this poor girl had endured so much abuse and grief in her short life. I had nothing but sympathy for her. She then moved her head from my lap and kissed me on the lips. I responded immediately but it then became clear that she wanted to this clinch to develop into something more physical.
What she had experienced had removed most of her self esteem. She obviously needed to feel needed and desired and to have her womanhood confirmed in a physical way. The trauma that she had endured lay heavily on her fragile mind and she would grasp at any given opportunity to try and restore some of the self worth that had been cruelly snatched from her in her teens. She needed me to make love to her.
Sex was the furthest thing from my mind. She had divulged her deepest intimacies to me. Revelations of chronic loss and desperate abuse. My entire being was consumed with a shared grief of the childhood that she wished dead and the abhorrent uncomfortable truth of what some fathers believe to be natural behaviour.
My mind and body were an unwilling passenger in what followed. Her attempts to seduce me into making love were futile, yet it was understandably what she needed most. How could I have sex right now? I completely understood the psychological whys and wherefores but trying to convey that to her was totally impossible. She couldn't grasp that I was not in the frame of mind to have sex and wouldn't be for some time. All she could see in front of her was a man who claimed to be her boyfriend and love her dearly yet who could not demonstrate this physically.
In those early days, despite the obvious personal depth of our conversation, the situation never quite degenerated into the sorry mess that had become of our day out to a beautiful castle in North Wales. We had eventually gone our separate ways after the revelations in the hotel room and upon finding some personal space and reflecting upon the events of that night, I realised something so very obvious. It was a thought and fact that I should have held onto for dear life. I could immediately see how easily the undamaged half of a relationship can lose perspective as he/she becomes enveloped and absorbed in to the emotional requirements of a needy mind. One becomes aware of society's expectations of the supporting role and upon marrying those to the personal requisites of the partner needing the support, the undamaged partner has a mountain to climb. Fundamentally, I knew back then that I was not to blame for what had happened to her. Nor was I answerable for the way in which my body responded to her physical needs, given the situation. I was aware that those emotionally connected to the abused often, after years of involvement, start to question themselves and occasionally start to blame themselves. Back then I knew from a sturdy concrete foundation that non of this was my fault. However, this was textbook behaviour. The edges had become blurred. Perhaps it was all my fault.
As the sweltering early afternoon dragged its reluctant feet towards a slightly cooler late sun, an depressing and familiar inevitability swirled within the car. We were going to exit this latest drama having accomplished nothing whatsoever. The inevitable unresolved end was in sight. She had become markedly calmer than earlier and was clutching the longer straw of reality and from what I could see, making a real attempt to keep her head above the white water. As I wiped her saliva and mucus from my face, she stared into the middle distance accepting that I was not prepared to be a part of her romantic suicide pact. I could tell that from the way she looked down at her hands held in her lap, that she now realised that all thoughts of suicide were a route to resolving nothing. She almost looked sorry.
The sun shimmered and sank over Anglesey, returning the metal oven in which we had sat for most of the afternoon back into a car. Real life was knocking and she was almost ready to let it wash over her. She had become aware of the passage of time due to the golden arc of light and deepening shadows that cascaded around us. It was a very real passage and it released her from her canopy of self doubt and mortal uncertainty. A moment of clarity had graced her. She asked me to take her home.
Return from Mark's Domestic Abuse Story to Domestic Violence Stories
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Domestic Violence Stories
While the statistics quoted in this book can be misleading, there is a real need to recognise those men who are the victims in abusive relationships, and this book goes a long way to giving male victims of domestic violence a voice and the assurance that they too are deserving of help, support and understanding. Abuse, no matter who perpetrates it against whom, is wrong:
To order in the US: Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
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