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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Thank you for sharing this. My heart was in my mouth as I read it as I can relate to the feeling of having to put on a happy couple front to avoid negativity of others opinions.
It’s clear from this that the way the situation was handled, particularly by authorities, could have been much better and that abuse should be handled the same across the board whether heterosexual, homosexual etc.
I think sites like this are brilliant, and perhaps if it had been available during your hour of need it may have given you the strength to walk away, or perhaps, as with most people that ‘no more’ switch inside you had to click.
I’m so glad to know that you no longer take the blame, because from my own personal experience of having a family member who was abused it is so hard to hear them blaming themselves. All I wanted to do at the time with my sister was hold her tight and tell her she was never to blame. Regardless of who she looked at/talked to etc it didn’t give her ex the right to lay a finger on her. At times when she thought her changing would help, even dumbing down/dressing down etc it was so frustrating – she was clever,articulate, funny, kind, loving and beautiful and she didn’t need to change for anyone. The ex didn’t deserve her and she didn’t deserve what the ex had done.
There were times I feared my sister would never escape. As I heard her justifying things and seeing friends slipping away. I was terrified of isolating her by being against her relationship and I think I did for a while. I cried buckets when I thought I’d lost her to someone who wasn’t worthy of breathing the same air as her. But she escaped, she started seeing friends and slowly but surely she started dating again. It makes me sad to think that my sisters abuser reduced her to panic attacks, losing confidence but I know from knowing her all my life and seeing her resilience and bravery that she’s a Phoenix who can rise from the ashes – she’s doing that now and soon she’ll be flying high again.
Thank you again for sharing your story. It’s the escape and strength you have I will keep with me
This comment was sent to us by email, and is directed at the woman who shared her experience with us:
“I feel for you. I’ve been there and so much of what you write is a painful echo of what I went through. Not the violence. Well, rarely. But the slow insidious chipping away at self-worth and, in the end, a quite disastrous effect on my daughter. Friends believed. Were sympathetic. Told me to get out. Except there were too many other commitments: young family; her inability to support herself; my stupid sense of duty and not wanting to see someone else struggle. So I cushioned her and took everything on myself.
“Everyone told me to get out: no-one actually provided any practical help – least of all those whose job it was to do so.
“I also understand that it isn’t over ‘just like that’. It took a small break-down before I knew I couldn’t go on: that and reaching the point in psych interviews where they ask if you’d had any suicidal thoughts recently – and my realising i was no longer quite telling the truth when I said ‘No’.
“The panic and the darkness is still there, late into the night. Even, occasionally, she returns to my dreams to haunt me.
“But its over. Its getting better. And surviving something like this is one of the strongest things you will ever do.
[…] she felt able to share this piece after reading one that we hosted earlier this week, discussing domestic abuse in a lesbian relationship. The relationship discussed in the post has now ended, and the writer is […]
[…] Domestic Abuse in a Lesbian Relationship – anonymous post submitted to @EVB_Now on the dynamics of a same-sex abusive relationship […]
just wanted to say that this really resonates with me, i could almost have written it myself. not much support out there for same sex DV, if you ever want to talk to someone who went through similar, my twitter name is LL_CoolHay x