With all the news around Ray Rice and his wife Janay this week, stemming from the release of security camera footage showing him beating her unconscious, I thought I kind of had to say something. I’m a football fan but even if you’re not you have probably heard about this and to say the least it is pretty sickening. DCHeavyMetal.com turned five years old today. Most people don’t know this but DCHeavyMetal.com was actually born out of domestic violence.
At the time I started this blog I was in a horrible relationship with a violent woman who I loved with all my heart. We lived together with her son, and I did my best to raise him as if he was my own. If you’ve ever seen me in person then you probably know I’m a pretty big guy, and it may seem unlikely that a woman was beating me. My size and strength didn’t matter though because I don’t hit people, ever. Not if I’m angry, not if they’re attacking me, not if they have done something to “deserve it” (whatever that means), not even to defend myself. I don’t believe in hitting people for any reason and even before I met this woman I had always thought that people who are violent are just not smart enough to solve their problems with their brains. And that’s how it happened to me, she knew this about me and used it against me. The abuse wasn’t just physical of course, she told me every day that I was worthless, that I was ugly, that I was lucky she even bothered with a loser like me because no other woman would, that I would never amount to anything, that my friends didn’t actually like me they just put up with me. She had told me she had been abused by her father growing up, and abused by her child’s father, and I thought, regardless of what she said to me, what she did to me, that I could tough it out. I told her that I would be the one that wouldn’t abandon her like the other men in her life had. I would show her that good men do exist, and we don’t hit women or children, and we don’t give up on the people we love, or our families. It ended up putting a burden on myself that trapped me in an awful relationship. If I were to walk away then I was giving up on her, I was breaking my promises and I was just like those other men that had failed her in her life. Unlike most abusers, she never did say she was sorry for it or that she loved me and it would never happen again. I don’t think she ever was sorry for anything she did to me and to this day she probably thinks I deserved it. I guess there’s a part of me that still believes that too, even though I know now that I shouldn’t feel that way.
She would get into these rages where she would just lose control, all logic was gone and she would cut me with her nails, grab the steering wheel while I was driving to try to make me cause an accident, throw things at me, destroy possessions I cared about like old family photos. I remember one time sitting on the floor with my back on a wall as she kicked me in the head repeatedly, I didn’t even bother to lift my arms to defend myself by this point. It didn’t matter, I just had to wait it out until she was tired of hitting me and resisting would just make it take longer. But I’ll never forget seeing her four year old son standing right next to her, about eye level with me, as she kicked me again and again. That hurt me more than any blow to my head, seeing the little boy I used to always sing to sleep in my arms when he was just a year and a half old look at me like that. I still didn’t leave her though, I guess I wasn’t strong enough. And as the abuse got worse and worse it became harder to conceal from others. Once she ripped out a clump of my hair, a big fist full of it, and it freaked me out really bad. I went to the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror and see which part of my head the hair came from and that’s when I realized I had cuts all over my face from her nails, and blood was running down my face, dripping off the tip of my nose. I’d often just go numb when she would hit me, so I hadn’t even realized my face had gashes crisscrossing it until I saw them. I’m not a perfect person by any means, but I knew I didn’t deserve this. For over a week while the cuts on my face healed I canceled all plans I had with anyone, I didn’t go out anywhere but to work, and even then I tried my best to make sure I was turned around on the phone or something so people couldn’t see my face when they needed to speak with me. If I had a job that required more interaction with people I probably would have just quit it.
At this point I told a friend about what was going on, one I only knew online and had never met in person. They don’t talk to me any more (again, I’m not perfect) but they did convince me to call a help line. There are very few resources for men when it comes to getting help from a violent partner. Just try using Google to find an abuse group for men in this area, as far as I know there isn’t one. All of the abuse help services are pretty much run by women for women. The questionnaires they have you fill out are worded like “when did he hit you last” and “did he ever insert an object into your vagina” and while I know they’re trying to help mostly women, as a man it made me feel like I shouldn’t even be there. Even when getting help I didn’t belong. I guess I hadn’t realized how rare it is for a man to both be a victim of domestic abuse and to ask for help dealing with it. I spoke to a couple different female counselors about what had been happening to me briefly but when they alerted child protective services (they were legally required to because I admitted that her child had witnessed her violence toward me) I felt awful. Here I was just trying to get myself help and I had betrayed her. I didn’t go back to the clinic, but I did speak to someone there who said they would tell the child services people that when they arrived they should pretend that I had no idea they were coming (they will do this to prevent people being beaten as retaliation). The night before the “surprise” visit to our home I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried about how this would work, and I’d never tried to pass off a lie like this before. I laid in bed all night but never actually slept because of my nerves. They showed up an hour late too, and I’ll tell you I was extremely stressed in that time, yet still pretending to be asleep. When they finally did show up I acted surprised, but the incompetence of the child services people showed immediately when the first thing they said was “sorry we’re late.” Somehow she didn’t hear this, or didn’t understand, and I just played dumb, but I realized these people were not exactly slick. They made it sound like a neighbor had complained and that’s why they were here, though the details they described, quoted from me before, made her suspicious from the start since they were too detailed. They didn’t take her child away, and in fact they said they would check back up with us in a week or two. Months passed and not a word, I guess they forgot about us. At some point I admitted to her that I was the reason they had come. That I had gone to a counselor for abuse and they had been required to inform child protection. I didn’t like having a secret from her like that and so I just told her. She was not happy but I assured her I wasn’t still seeing the counselor, and I wasn’t trying to have her son taken from her. Although I had seen this vegetarian “animal lover” beat our dog she never did anything to physically harm her son.
When I caught her cheating on me it wasn’t even a real shock, I guess I figured that I deserved that too. She was on several dating sites that her best friend, who was single, had told her to use and she would actually go on dates behind my back while I watched her kid for her, thinking she was going to a movie with her friend or something. Then she had some other boyfriend in England that she’d fly out to meet in other cities without telling me. Her mother died of cancer while I was with her and she told me she cheated on me to help cope with that. All the while I was going deeper and deeper in debt because she couldn’t hold a job long before being fired, the bills were all in my name anyways since she had horrid credit to begin with. It was during this dark time that I started DCHeavyMetal.com. I was in a painful, lonely place and I needed something creative that I could focus on, mostly so I wouldn’t have to think about how shitty my own life was. Even if nobody were to end up reading the site it was still an outlet for me, something positive I could work on. Much to my surprise people did start reading it. I cannot describe how much it meant to me to have people say positive things to me about it. Thanking me for running it, enjoying the things I wrote and the photos I shot. When every day you are told you are worthless and pathetic and that nobody likes you, you start to believe it. The people reading this site and encouraging me made a world of difference in my life, and made me remember that I do have worth.
One night she had another violent episode (all because I wanted to watch a Wizards game that night and she wanted to watch something on Netflix) and she cut my face up pretty badly again. By this time I had learned to just leave the house for a while and not come back until late at night when she was sleeping. Except this time she had a plan to prevent me from leaving like that, she called the cops. She told them that I had shoved her son down and choked her and that she cut me up to defend herself, and that I was trying to leave the scene of the crime. She had once tried to become an actress and I guess she fooled them well enough because I soon found myself handcuffed in the back of a police car as I was hauled off to jail not only for a crime that I didn’t commit, but a crime that I was actually the victim of. I never slept in that house again. Everyone that walks away from abuse has a point where they won’t take it any more and this was mine. I had been cheated on, driven into debt, beaten and humiliated, but I wasn’t going to prison for her. At this point all my friends found out what had been going on. My secret shame that I had fought so hard to hide was no longer a secret. I had to tell them, I needed their help with things like finding a lawyer and a place to sleep, getting my things out of the town house I had lived in with her (and let me tell you suddenly moving without packing anything ahead of time fucking sucks).
This was probably the lowest point of my life. Nobody wants to lose their family and live out of a suit case. I felt a lot of shame and guilt for things like abandoning her and her son. I felt like I had failed as a man because I couldn’t hold my family together. She was constantly playing mind games with me, sending me text messages telling me my friends were awful one day and then asking me out on a date the next. I couldn’t sleep unless I was completely wasted and so I started drinking a lot, every night. I ate horribly, when I remembered to, and I constantly worried about my impending trial. Not everything was doom and gloom though. The website was doing better and better despite all this and I met a new woman who was really good to me when I really needed someone. After my charges were eventually dropped I decided that I had lost too much from that awful relationship already and I would not allow myself to be depressed any more, I wanted my life back. I started going to a shit load of concerts (long time readers may remember my Metal Marathon around this time where I went to 11 shows in 9 consecutive days) not just because going to tons of metal shows makes me happy, but because I actually could. She continued to contact me for almost a year before she realized I wasn’t going to write her back. The last communication she ever had with me was a text message saying her son was crying for me. I knew then it was just manipulative but even now it still messes with my head a bit.
Things are a lot better for me now though, I’ve come a long way in the past five years (and so has DCHM). This site has let me meet more great people than I ever imagined (especially since I never imagined I’d meet anyone because of it when I started it). I used to hate going to concerts alone but now I don’t think I can go to a show without knowing some of the people there. I’ve learned about the area’s local metal bands, and become friends with many of them as well as other writers in the area, the folks working at venues, the DIY bookers, promoters and of course the other metal fans in the area that come out and support the local scene. There’s a great community of metal heads in this area and I’m thankful to be a part of it. I still struggle with the debt she left me in, unfortunately running a local metal site doesn’t earn me any money, but I’m so much better off now regardless. I mean c’mon, I got to interview Bill Ward of Black Sabbath this year, I can’t complain about that! And of course I’ve made something here that I can be proud of, and that many of you still tell me regularly that you enjoy. A lot has changed for me in the last five years, and I have DCHeavyMetal.com and you fans of the site to thank for a good part of that.
I’d like to say that if anyone reading this, and I really mean anyone whether I know you or not, is having issues at home with violence you can always reach out to me here at DCHM. I won’t judge you for your situation or for staying and I know as well as anyone what just having someone to talk to can do to make a positive difference. You can email me at DCHeavyMetal@Gmail.com or contact me through any other forms of social media. I’m not a shrink but I can listen, and I can put you in contact with professionals that can do a lot more than that too. We’ve got a great metal community in this area and just like when someone gets knocked down in a mosh pit, we’ve got to help pull each other up.
This has been a heavy post, probably not what anyone was expecting for a five year anniversary post here. The timing of the release of the Ray Rice video brought back a lot of painful memories for me, and perhaps this is how I’m dealing with that. I promise the next few posts will be more fun and exciting. We’ve got another album review ready to post in the next few days, and I’ve been working very hard on a special post showing the 99 best metal concert posters and flyers of the past 5 years from the area. Things have been a bit slow on the site lately too, particularly the calendar, but I’m working to get things back into high gear here in the fall. There’s no big DCHM show at the Fillmore this year but I do have a few special things planned for this month and beyond, including a new t-shirt design. Thanks to new and old fans alike for keeping the area’s metal scene alive, this site wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you all!