On February 15, 2014, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancé in an Atlantic City hotel elevator. Ever since TMZ released a graphic video of the assault last month, there’s been a lot of national chatter surrounding domestic violence.
Though the domestic abuse featured through campaigns like #WhyIStayed is often a man assaulting a woman, we mustn’t forget about the rampant abuse within the LGBT community. In two different surveys by the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 20 percent of gay male relationships and over 34 percent of lesbian relationships involve some form of domestic violence.
My name is Scott Backman; I’m a Los Angeles-based comedian, I’m a gay man, and I’m a victim of domestic abuse. I now realize my first relationship with a man (I was 23, he was 30) was f–ked up from Day One. He was verbally and physically abusive; he followed up each incident with a tearful apology and a present. I figured if he was buying me nice things, he really did care for me, and I excused his violent behavior as the rare flip side to his charms.
But his violent behavior slowly became the norm, until one night, he finally crossed a line.
We were leaving a local bar when we broke into an argument. He proceeded to call me a whore, a slut, a bitch and an asshole while I drove us home in silence. I continued to ignore him and refused to react, which only fueled his rage. He began to punch me.
After his outburst, I told him I was going home alone. After getting to my apartment, I answered the phone the first time he called, telling him to go home, to leave me alone. I ignored the continuous calls that followed, angering him more.
Shortly after, the door to my apartment slammed open as he furiously threw his body into it. There were screams, shouting, things being thrown, and glass breaking. His face was scrunched up and reddened with rage, and all I could think to do was protect myself while simultaneously trying to quell his fury. I yelled his name, trying to snap him out of it, but his shouting drowned me out. A neighbor stood in my open doorway, telling us she had called the police.
That finally calmed him, and we walked out of the building to get some fresh air. While sitting on my building’s front stoop, the police arrived, asking if we were involved with the disturbance. I quickly said yes, and pointed to my boyfriend. They took him into custody.
Sadly, this is how my parents found out I was gay: “Mrs. Backman, this is the Boston police department. Your son was assaulted by his boyfriend after he broke into your son’s apartment.”
When I think about this today, I can only imagine what my mother’s first thoughts were. “He has a boyfriend?” But hey, at least I didn’t have to tell my parents that I am gay—a silver lining.
After a a trip to the hospital, an appearance in court, and filing a restraining order, I did—as is so often the case—take him back. There were the ritualistic apologies, tears and gifts (I got a new laptop computer), but I soon realized nothing had changed. I wanted and I deserved better. Breaking up was not going to be easy, but I had to. And I did.
When I wonder today why I stayed, it’s because as unhealthy as it sounds, I was comfortable. I wasn’t out to my family, and I thought having a boyfriend was better than being alone. I knew that no one’s perfect, and there were times he treated me well. Cutting him out of my life was by no means easy, but it was the best thing for me and the best way for me to be not only happy, but safe.
Today, I’m grateful to have such a supportive network of friends and family. I’m single, but confidently and comfortably so. If you or someone you love is caught in an abusive relationship, the time to do something is now. Use the national attention such matters are receiving as a means to an end.
Scott Backman, a New Jersey native, moved to West Hollywood three years ago from Boston. He is a professional comedian.