How Domestic Violence Kept Me From Coming Out

I remember the first time a pretty girl kissed me. We were both on ecstasy at a rave. She had shiny bleached hair, so over-treated it was silver, and it fell perfectly straight just to her jaw line. I thought she looked like a model or a pop star, and I couldn’t believe she wanted to kiss me. I remember seeing the odd look my boyfriend gave me as he watched us kiss, but he never said anything, because that wasn’t the boyfriend who would make me deny I was bisexual.

I grew up in Seattle, where being queer was normal. This wasn’t some backwoods town where coming out meant bullying or death. At my high school, there were probably more gay kids than straight kids, and most of my friends who claimed to be straight then are now out as queer in some way. If I had come out in high school, I would have been supported. I would have been celebrated.

mepunkyThen I met The Ex. The Ex was older than me, considerably so at the time because I was fifteen and he was in his twenties. He was a meth addict, which was a turn-off until he pressured me to try it and got me hooked too. He was funny, and clever, at least by tweaked-out 15-year-old-girl standards, and very handsome. By everyone’s standards. How many times had my friends gushed about wanting to sleep with him? How many times had they said, giggling, “I want to have his babies! What teenage girl doesn’t want a boyfriend everyone else wants?

But the truth is that nobody wants what he did to me. We stayed together four years, the way so many abuse victims do, and during that time he robbed me completely of my sense of self. He beat me; he bit me; he raped me; he choked me until I seized; he kidnapped me and held me hostage in a motel, forcing me touse money that I had won in a poetry contest to pay for extra nights or else he would “tie me up and leave me in the forest” until my black eye healed. He forced me to perform oral sex to stop the beatings. He forced me to lie to my friends and family. And you know what else he did? He made me think I was straight.

The first time he accused me of hooking up with a girl, I had been at my friend Emily’s apartment. She and I had been hanging out. It was a rare time when it was just us. We were both still teenagers but one of her family members paid for her to have her own apartment, so there were always people over partying. Getting high. Drawing on the walls. Making out in one of the several cozy bedded nooks Emily had created. On this day though, when I dropped by, it was just Emily.

I remember that I was depressed. The Ex had been beating me regularly by then. I hadn’t told anyone yet, but Emily’s apartment was the first place I took refuge after the motel incident. She’d seen the black eye. She must have known something. I went there and I remember that we watched TV and hung out. Basic stuff, but it felt good. We just chilled. I felt safe.

Then The Ex showed up. Banging on the door. I hadn’t told him where I was, but somehow he’d known anyway. More likely, he had looked everywhere I liked to spend time until he found me. Emily let him in, invited him to hang out. He stayed for a while, but he was twitchy. Nervous. Looking around the room, picking at the permanently opened scab beneath his lip. It was no longer chill to be there. No longer safe.

As soon as we got outside, the accusations began. “What were you doing there alone with her? Why wasn’t anyone else there? You were screwing her, weren’t you? Are you a lesbian?”

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I don’t remember if he beat me that day. He beat me so many times. I walk by Emily’s old building often; I live near it now. Almost every time I take my kids to the park I pass the garage across the street, just out of sight of her window, where The Ex punched my head into the pavement floor. But I have PTSD; I can’t connect all the flashes of remembrances. Maybe he only accused me that day. Maybe the time in the garage was a different beating, another reason. Maybe he didn’t hurt me, that time.

It was enough just that he said it. It was no longer safe to spend time with anyone. Not boys. Not even girls anymore. And I certainly couldn’t want to sleep with girls. That would be too risky. What if he knew? There was a point in our relationship when I became convinced he could read my mind. That’s how powerful abuse is. So I became straight.

Long after the relationship ended and the denial wore off, I still found myself shrinking from uttering the words “I’m bisexual.” Being bisexual brought me to a place of danger. It created too many variables; too many opportunities for accusation. I couldn’t be me when I was with The Ex, and I couldn’t fully be me for years afterward.

Abuse is insidious. One blow can echo in a thousand small ways; a thousand small habits it kills and creates. Life shrinks into survival. The person in the abused body hides. There are parts of me I am not certain I will ever recover, but this at least I finally know and can admit: I am queer.


Elizabeth Brico (2)Elizabeth Brico is a speculative fiction writer, published poet, playwright, feminist blogger, DV survivor, and mama x 3 living in the Pacific Northwest. She runs a blog about living and parenting with mental illness and is also putting together a theatrical production about addiction and recovery. She is seeking contributions for both. You can find her contact info, and more writing, on her blog Betty’s Battleground. Connect with other members of the mental health community by joining her Facebook community where you can discuss issues related to living and parenting with mental illness. You can also follow her on Twitter: @bettymama206, Instagram:@bettymama206, and Pinterest: @elizabethbrico.

 


51 thoughts on “How Domestic Violence Kept Me From Coming Out

    1. Thanks Chelsea. I hope so too. Yes, the world is a very cruel place. We need community and support but those things can be very difficult to find. If this article helps someone else reach some kind of peace that would be wonderful. Thank you for reading 🙂

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  1. I am so sorry for the hell you went through. I am so glad you made it out. You are beautiful and I can tell you are happy. Thank you for sharing your story and fighting the stigma surrounding abuse and mental health issues. You are 👏 awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The truth is though, I am actually not happy, not by a stretch. I don’t mean to belittle your comment!!! I really appreciate you reading and showing support. But the reality is that I developed PTSD as a result of all of this, and it is a debilitating disorder that has destroyed my life. The reason I bring it up is because it is SO. SO important to show compassionate, caring, SUSTAINED support to people who experience events like these, even though it is uncomfortable to face and think about. Sadly, the story doesn’t end when the article does, but encouragement and support help. Support has to be actions and not just words to count! I urge anyone reading this to remember that! PTSD can be avoided…if the person has SUPPORT.
      Anyway, sorry I just used your comment as the platform for a message!! Thank you for reading and commenting ❤

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  2. My goodness .. what a brave post! I too have been a victim of domestic violence and know that it kept me small for a very, very long time. I wish I would have mustered the courage to leave long before I ever did.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that no matter where you live and how society behaves, there is still a huge step to be true to yourself and really accept who you are. Maybe your boyfriend saw who you really were before you did and that’s why his abusive behavior? He was just a coward to treat you like his property instead of encourage you to be yourself!

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    1. No I wouldn’t attribute my queerness to his abusive behavior. He’s an abusive person, that’s all it comes down to. He did this to a bunch of women before me, including a homeless woman, a homeless 13 year old girl, and a Japanese foreign exchange student. Who knows how many he’s abused since? It’s just his nature. He is a coward though, you’re right about that.

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  4. I could feel my heart beating faster and faster as I read the story and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. You see, I actually talk to Betty at the moment and while I knew that she was and still is going through abuse I had no idea how bad it was. It breaks my heart to know that only was this beautiful kind hearted soul forced to compromise her sexual identity but she was abused beyond our imagination. This is not okay, I was also abused as a child for many years before I escaped but was also abused throughout much of my teen years too. It is scary but it is so great that Betty is sharing her story xx

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  5. It is very hard to write about these sorts of topics and it sounds like you have been though an exceptionally bad experience. It’s hard to get out of these kinds of relationships and but I’m really pleased that you have. I hope that this inspires others trapped in similar relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Domestic Violence is really the worst thing. Its hard to get out of it and breaks our mind and soul. I can understand what all you must have gone through. We cant even imagine it. It’s really brave to share such things out openly. The world has all types of people. You have to become stronger. 🙂

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  7. You are so brave comming out! But remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Domestic Voilence can lead to different results but you became a stronger and brave person xx
    ♥ xoxo My Life as Foteini / Foteini Karagianni ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Foteini, for reading and for commenting. I know you are trying to be encouraging with this comment, and I really appreciate your kindness ❤ I don't know if I agree with the platitude though. In some ways I am stronger, yes, but in other, often more important ways, I am broken beyond belief. Dysfunctional. Hurt by the smallest things and made suicidal by too much stress and disappointment. Sometimes I feel like even though it's ten years later, this may kill me yet. The awful truth of abuse is that people who have endured it require far more love and support than others are often willing or even able to give. We really need to try to stop abuse from happening…end rape culture…teach kids (especially boys) better anger control…teach girls and women that we are worthy and beautiful as we are instead of belittling us to sell products…etc. It's really a systemic problem; I just got caught in it like so many others.
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I have a lot of passionate feelings about these subjects! I really do appreciate your kindness.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks 🙂 I actually have PTSD now. You can read more about it on my blog if you’re interested! But yes, you’re right in not saying “ending.” The story BEGINS when the victim leaves the abuser, and that is when it is crucial to provide support. Without community and support, people can’t heal.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading. Honestly you have Survival Is A Talent to thank solely for the trigger warning. You won’t find them on my own blog, I am vehemently against them! Though I don’t mind that it was put on this post; everyone has the right to run their blogs as they please 🙂

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  8. This was a great post – it so clearly expresses the power of abuse and what it does to someone surviving moment by moment. It changes so much more in us than just the physiological response – it’s more than the chemical reaction and the learned behaviors. It’s the mental changes, the anguish, the fear reactions that remain long after the abuse has ended.

    I’m glad you made it out. And that you’re beginning to find yourself in a way that you couldn’t before.

    Liked by 1 person

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