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 3: Loch Shiel, Glenfinnan. June 1999.
I am in a small green two man tent. She is with me. We are on holiday, apparently. Loch Shiel is a beautiful unspoilt Scottish Loch that, given the time of year, was relatively free from tourists. It's a gorgeous hazy summer evening, about 7pm. The pub at one end of the campsite is not so much a bustle of lively summer activity that you may expect from West Highland wateringhole, but rather an oasis of welcoming warmth and friendly quiet banter as walkers rest their weary limbs over an evening pint. Then again, this isn't really a camp site. It's a field that the publican owns and charged six pounds per night per tent. Perfect for two skint ex students taking a few weeks off after graduating before hitting the inevitable grindstone.
1999 was eleven years ago and I am no longer a student. Thankfully I am no longer on a campsite beside Loch Shiel desperately trying to prevent two people, of which I am one, from spiralling into a yawning chasm of self loathing and bitterness. Scotland is probably my favourite place on the planet. It simply must have something special because I still regularly visit there despite it being the venue for the massive trauma that follows.
We were camped at the far end of the field. The landowner's pub was a dot in the distance. Ours was the only tent in the field and we felt out in the wilderness, a real sensation of peace, perfection and solitude. This, however, was about as far away from perfection as one could possibly hope to get. For any ordinary couple this deliberate isolation would perhaps create a spark of passion, forbidden naughty sex in the outdoors, the stuff of dreams while in your teens. Moonlit walks besides the lake followed by a couple of glasses of house red and then back to the tent for love under the stars safe in the knowledge that no one in the pub could hear us from our distant location. Unfortunately, the aforementioned stuff of dreams for the teenager was also the stuff of dreams for us.
"Look, she shrieked at me, whats up with you? Why cant you just do it to me? What's the big deal? Just bloody shag me and do what other men can do so easily" Those warm, inquisitive friendly eyes turned into blazing pools of anger and frustration as she pulled my face to within an inch of her raging and flushed screaming skull. I could see the beads of sweat forming on her brow as she planted an aggressive kiss on my lips. She then lunged forward again as if she was going to repeat the process, only this time she sank her front teeth into my lower lip. Her head then moved back to its start position. The tent was small and claustrophobic. We were facing each other in a kneeling position. I knew what was coming next and I saw the idea become a reality as she swung a clenched fist towards my temple. I flinch and was immediately accused of believing that she would actually hit me. This was an absurd accusation considering that there was blood in my mouth after she had bit my lip.
It's incredible what one can wonder in a split second. How did things get this bad. How did I get so deeply entangled with this woman who will never ever be happy with anything that I say or do. She was my first proper girlfriend and I guess we were both holding onto each other for dear life no matter how horrible the reality of our relationship had become. She shared so many intimacies of her troubled past with me at a very early stage of our pairing. I had barely found my sea legs in the courting arena when I had to react to the knowledge that she had recently lost a baby, had an estranged abusive father, was a victim of attempted rape as a teenager all of which culminated in plumetting self esteem, an eating disorder and a regular use of prozac or seroxat. What chance did we have? How was I supposed to find her physically attractive with all these cluttered and sometimes pornographic images of her past randomly appearing in my head. The one thing I could do to raise her self esteem and make her feel like an attractive and desirable woman was to show her physical love. You can't argue with an uncompromising confident erection to hold at bay any doubts as to whether or not your partner finds you attractive. But it just wouldn't happen. This wasn't the first time and to say it wouldn't be the last would be an understatement.
As the evening sun shone down onto the dark green fabric of our boiling tent, what remained of the air inside was thick, putrid and unpleasant to breath. A stagnant mixture of heat, sweat and the fusty plastic rubber smell of a tent that only gets used once a year permeated my senses and released me from my few seconds of wonder. More screaming. "I just don't get it" she bellowed. "Years we've been together and for most of that I've had to put up with you and your miserable limp dick. I just can't take this anymore." Why couldn't I tell her the truth. Why couldn't I just tell her that I no longer fancied her and the reason was that she was a psychological mess? She had told me every intimate detail of her horrific past and this was the reason why she was an abusive cow. Her words, not mine. Why couldn't I say that for the years that she had put up with me and my miserable limp dick, I had put up with her, her violence, her persistent and seemingly perpetual need to be worshipped. Why couldn't I declare my right to not be the man for the job. The words were there but there was no way on this earth that they would come out. I was absolutely terrified that this woman was going to kill herself and I couldn't let that happen.
So I stayed. I kept quiet. I let her hurt me. I let her punch, kick, bite, scratch and gouge the life out of me. Over and over again. Situation after situation where we sank lower and lower into the psychological wasteland of her brain. Yes sure, she had been the victim of heinous circumstance during her past but why had I been gifted the impossible task of making this person right again. She was totally unable to function as part of a normal relationship. I sympathised to the point of stupidity but nothing, absolutely nothing that I could say or do could even go some of the way to repairing her damaged mind. And so it continued. The endless cycle of walking on eggshells, feeling them crack and being on the receiving end of her frustration. I had to wait for her to leave me ... that was the only way forward, the only solution. I wasn't procrastinating. I wanted this over yesterday, Christ I wish I'd never met her. No time frame, no specific destination, just waiting and waiting until she found the strength to finish it.
I did try to leave her once. It was the previous May just before my college had broken up for the summer break. This episode deserves and entire chapter to itself as it reveals what is actually at the bottom of her murky well of emotions. It also demonstrates the insideously calculated and controlling hold that she had over me. This in turn provides enlightenment as to why and how she was able to control my actions and importantly why I was unable to react and save myself. At the time I felt spineless, manipulated and dominated. I was also worried, concerned that she would kill herself. She had threatened this to me on numerous occasions thus limiting my own armoury and escape plans. I could not have her death on my conscience and I knew that she was very capable of following her threat through. I found out just how capable she was on that one occasion that I attempted to instigate a separation.
Following several marathon telephone calls from her home to my student digs in which we argued about commitment, depression, sex, marriage, my mother, the list goes on, I had thrown in the towel once and for all. I told her confidently in no uncertain terms that I had come to the end of the line and had nothing left to give. The trauma of her past had destroyed the present and we would be very stupid to try and make it work. I admitted that my life thus far had been reasonably sheltered and was unable to cope with her emotional and psychological needs. There followed a cooling off period of several days where I genuinely thought that I was rid of her. There was however the issue of some belongings that had to be returned so we had arranged to meet up on neutral ground to have a coffee, exchange belongings and then go our separate ways.
I was unprepared for the bombshell that followed. She revealed that following our last telephone conversation in which I had terminated our relationship, she had taken a cocktail of tablets together with a bottle of vodka with the intention of not waking up. Inevitably my heart went out to her and I felt massive guilt. The guilt and more talking inevitably concluded with a starting over pact. Promises and plans were made and we tried again for all the wrong reasons.
Back to the beauty of Loch Shiel. "How stupid was I," she grimaced." I had dreams of us taking a midnight stroll to the waters edge and making love on the shore under the stars. I even packed an extra blanket for us. How can I deal with this humiliation. You make me feel so cheap, so ugly and unattractive. You always reject me, well your body does anyway. I can't rationalise it any more. It's just doing my head in. Most couples can enjoy the making up part after a row. Why can't we? I'll tell you why ... cos you're a bloody eunuch, that's why. Just get a sodding hard on and shag me you pathetic bastard."
As usual floundering for the right thing to day, I said nothing. I stared into the middle distance absorbing her bitterness. Every pore of my body open and submerged in her acute hatred of herself. I was her channel, her vessel for that hate. A lump appeared in my throat. A lump that is there as a preamble to crying. Though I can't shed tears for myself, that's not allowed, only for her. So I'd rather not shed any at all. So while her innermost feelings are not merely on her sleeve but eddying around the mountains of Scotland, mine are all inside. They're festering, mutating and running amok with my psyche. She had won. Some time ago when she first showed signs of being damaged due to the baggage of her past, a fleeting thought permeated through my excitement of finally having a proper girlfriend. That thought was that the recipient of abuse in a relationship nearly always ends up concluding that it is their fault. I knew at the time that her first outburst had nothing to do with anything that I had said or done. It was merely her interpretation of a circumstance through a mind that wasn't working properly. I hoped she would quickly get over her troubles and that we could get on with a happy carefree relationship. However, this was my fault. It actually felt like I was to blame. I deserved to be hit for not being able to sleep with her. I was making her self esteem plummet. Much as I tried to think back with clarity and an open mind to those free thinking none to distant thoughts that were uncluttered with her needs and expectations, I simply couldn't get there. I was unable to feel anything but guilt. How could I even consider that this wasn't my fault? I deserved everything I got. And I got it.
"Why" she screamed, "why, why, why". I grabbed her shoulders, pulled her close and kissed her solidly. I'd like to use the word passionately but there was none. She responded immediately. I could feel her desperation, her need and desire not just for sex but to be loved and wanted. I desperately wanted to reciprocate that love but the poison of her expectations in my head once again for the umpteenth time reigned in any actual sexual need in me. "C'mon" she said, "we can put all this behind us right here and now, all you have to do is make love to me." I replied that I wanted to desperately. It wasn't a lie because that's exactly what I did want. However, I knew that my reasons were very different from hers. I wanted out of this diabolical situation that we had somehow let snowball, and having sex with her was my exit. Inevitably I felt nothing below the waist. I tried so hard to be turned on. I thought of other people and fantasies I'd always had. Nothing. I thought of making a baby. Nothing. I tried to leave my own body and watch two people making passionate love in a tent. Nothing. I made a deal with God that I'd become a born again Christian and still nothing. She was now wanting me naked convinced that this was the turning point and that things were going to turn out okay. I dutifully obliged but there was nothing that could remove the basic foundation set in granite within my brain that I did not want to have sex with this woman. Not in a million years. My body betrayed me confirming both our worst fears. Pathetic limp dick was back with avengeance and was not going away.
"I hate you. Every time. Every bloody time" She was so desperate and begging me to make love to her. Flailing emotions of sorrow, hate, resentment and humiliation billowed around the tent. None of them manifesting for any length of time but making her appearance change dramatically from moment to moment. Red flushed angry cheeks, sweat, tears and pure undiluted rage... she gouged her own nails into her forehead drawing blood and then came at me swiftly and head butted me on my lips. She immediately calmed and stared at me without actually seeing me. Her brain would not acknowledge what she had just done. As blood trickled into my mouth and down my chin, I felt calm too. We had reached that point. The point in one of our arguments where it cannot get any worse. The coppery taste of blood in my mouth was welcoming as I knew it meant that I was safe. I imagine that I was feeling similar emotions to those her abused mother felt at the hands of her evil father. As she began to focus on my face and the realisation dawned that she had caused the bloody mess around her boyfriend's mouth, she inhaled deeply and, upon exhalation whispered, "take me to hospital".
We were now in the eye of the hurricane. There was serenity within the chaos. We were both stripped of our emotions, drained and empty yet at the same time we were open wounds awaiting some kind of repair. Vulnerable. We were in the middle of nowhere both emotionally and literally. The nearest hospital was in Fort William some thirty miles away and in any case I was unfit to drive having drank several glasses of red wine. "Just take me to hospital, I need help" she whispered again. Was this my cue. My chance to agree with her in the most sympathetic way possible. Should I take this opportunity and allow her to take the blame for the pair of us arriving at such a desolate lonely place? A place in a relationship where two people feel trapped by none existent chains. Yet those chains are so very comfortable, so safe and warm. This misery, this walk along a knife edge creating such emotional turbulence was proving an impossible habit to break. Even given this apparent moment of clarity that she was experiencing, there was still no way that I could risk letting her shoulder the blame. The chances are that she would have a second moment of clarity, her twisted and damaged clarity, the clarity that dictates to her that everything is once again my fault. I would be accused of coercing with her demons and taking advantage of the situation and manipulating it to suit my own ends.
To take her to hospital would have been the best thing for both of us. How liberating I would have felt walking down the corridor towards the exit knowing that she was now someone elses problem. That undoubtedly sounds dreadful and uncompromisingly harsh but enough was enough. Nevertheless true to form, we remained in the hurricane's eye content to wallow and absorb the rarified air contained in this safe bubble of rare tranquillity.
The journey out of the bubble and back through the turbulence into our 'normal' day to day relationship was never the same twice. We either sifted through the previous scenario in reverse. This would involve her analysing every word and action and extrapolating every possible outcome to arrive at an unsatisfactory conclusion. Or she would have a scarce moment of pure thought where we were both permitted by her momentarily dazed yet damaged neural pathways to be blatantly honest. In this instance she would shoulder the blame and we would soldier on. This time was different.
The blood had dried on my face and my lip had swollen quickly. We both knew that the hospital idea was a no go. So we sat silently, neither of us knowing what to do. I hated her yet I wanted to protect her from herself. I felt powerless. The thought of sleeping with her was acutely unpleasant. I did not want to, yet that thought was at the front of my mind as I knew that it was the only way out of this deplorable situation. She was crying. Not manic hysterical crying but short sobs of calm genuine sadness. I reached over to her and she immediately reciprocated slowly putting her arms around me.
I prayed. This was a titanic gamble on a planetary scale. I was about to ask my body to do something that I absolutely did not want to do. I am not an openly religious person. My beliefs are of a spiritual nature and do not follow the path of an organised religion. Yet in those moments of sexual preamble I prayed desperate prayers to any listening higher being that could provide some emotional respite for this poor young woman. There was no sexual desire whatsoever on my part. Perhaps there wasn't on hers either, just a need to perform an act that would unquestionably shift the balance of her mind a little way back towards the middle.
She was eager. I wasn't. Yet as I looked down after removing the rest of my clothes, my prayers had been answered. Somehow, and with absolutely no feeling of desire below the waist, I now had the equipment to end this torment with the action she so violently needed. What followed was for me an act of total hypocrisy. I hated it. We had sex, made love, whatever you want to call it but in no way was I a willing partner in this. I was asking myself the question over and over again as to how on earth had I achieved and maintained an erection. I actually questioned the reality of it. Had we both fallen asleep whilst in the eye of the hurricane? No we hadn't. Here we were, doing it. It was actually happening.
When it was over she was full of praise and with the sexual tension lifted temporarily, we had two reasonably pleasant days together. Yet deep within my mind a word kept materialising. I pushed this word down in the hope that it would simply go away but alas, it would not. The word was rape. Had I been raped? I kept applying definitions to that horrible violent word. There was no actual physical violence. Nevertheless, there definitely was terrifying emotional and psychological violence. She had inflicted that violence upon me and simultaneously plagued her own mind with it. I had had sexual intercourse against my will. One can say that it was necessary to find closure to an appalling circumstance. One can say that men cannot be raped due to the probable inability to gain an erection when undergoing that kind of ugly abuse. Whatever the speculative thought process may reveal, I cannot get passed the fact that I did not want to have sex. I think that I have been raped.
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
To order in the UK: Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
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