Domestic Abuse in a Lesbian Relationship
I was abused by a woman. She was my partner at the time, and despite my experience of working with women who had been abused by men, I was in complete denial. I didn't call it what it was - domestic abuse - for many months after it started.
I didn't tell my friends that most weekends (especially after us both consuming alcohol), the abuse would be particularly horrific. It was always blamed on me - what I'd said, done, who I'd talked to; the constant accusations of being unfaithful; the hateful comments about my daughter's father; and physical abuse when I didn't 'listen properly' or when I defended myself from her verbal attacks.
The first time she physically assaulted me, I was so shocked, I could barely speak. She back-handed me so hard that it knocked me off my feet, and she caught the corner of my face with the edge of her ring.
Afterwards, when she was crying, and apologising and promising to get help with her drinking, I fell into the ' 'rescuer role' - looking back now, I can see that this was all part of her need for control and power.
If I didn't show that I 'loved her' enough, there would be an argument - I would always end up with a physical injury.
If I hadn't responded, and went to bed out of the way, she would drag me out of bed by my hair in the early hours of the morning, because she was ready to 'talk'.
The house would be smashed up - and it was always my stuff (or my daughters) that was smashed. She always had enough control not to break her own precious items!
She fitted into the classic abuser role, just as an abusive man would. But I treated it differently, I think. I'm not sure of all the reasons for this, but certainly homophobia played a part.
When I met my partner, I'd not been in a relationship with anyone for a number of years, which meant a new process of 'coming out' to colleagues and new friends. The worry about homophobia means that (in my experience, at least) I wanted to ensure this relationship looked 'perfect' to the outside world.
When she assaulted me to the point where I thought she would kill me, I reported her to the police and she was convicted of Common Assault.
At this point, I told my friends and family, but I didn't seek (nor was I offered) any professional support. The police didn't seem to know what to do, the IDVA in court didn't seem to take it as seriously as I'd seen them do in my professional life, and I ended up going back to her.
Maybe if I'd had professional support, I could have made a safe exit plan. As it was, I felt very isolated.
The physical abuse stopped after this incident - no doubt because she was under supervision from probation. I went to a probation meeting and the probation officer told us we had a 'toxic effect' on one another. She said that my partner was 'wound up' by my presence, and threatened by my intelligence, skills and experience. She told me that I should 'leave' and my partner should look for someone who 'could meet her needs'.
I took a lot of responsibility for the abuse at the time. I modified my habits - I drank more than I was comfortable with, simply to stop her drinking it, as the abuse was much worse when she was drunk.
I stopped seeing certain friends, or saw them in secret, to minimise the opportunities that she had to abuse me. I avoided nights out unless she was invited, and I spent the whole evening 'managing' her - placating, visiting the bar and replacing the requested double vodka with a single, not making eye contact with anyone but her.
I asked my friends not to text or ring me in the evenings, as that was more likely that she'd be around. I deleted most of my texts, even though none of them were ever what an non-abusive person would see as problematic.
I lied to my friends, family and colleagues about my injuries.
I isolated myself, to try and keep myself safe in one of the most unsafe situations that anyone can find themselves in.
My ex is a serial abuser. She had assaulted members of her family, previous partners and other women she was close to. None of the professional organisations looked at this pattern of abusive behaviour.
There are many reasons why I didn't use the term Domestic Violence or Domestic Abuse. It clearly was - the abuse was emotional, physical and at times, sexual. Partly, this was denial on my part - I didn't want to admit that I was in an abusive relationship.
I 'othered' the abuse, treated it differently to how I would have done if it'd been a man being abusive, and didn't feel that I was offered the right sort of support, nor did I know how to access appropriate support.
I didn't want to admit to 'failing' her, as she told me everyone else in her life had done.
But most of all, I didn't want to use that term as it made me feel like shit. Survivor/victim of domestic abuse - it's just another label that I didn't want to have applied to me, until I was ready to apply it to myself.
I'm free from the abuse - I did escape safely, and I'm recovering from the legacy of an abusive relationship. I don't take responsibility for the abuse anymore, not for that perpetuated against me, anyway. As a mother, I hold the responsibility for the choices I made in returning to the abusive relationship and exposing my daughter to more trauma, which is something that I am slowly, but surely, coming to terms with.
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