New love, old pain

After many failed years of dating men I began my first lesbian
relationship in 2003. During the year we were together she was
openly out with her friends, colleagues and family. I was not,
which was the cause of endless difficulties as I felt constantly
under pressure to tell people.

Having experienced domestic violence in a previous relationship I
believed I knew the signs. I thought it would never happen to me
again. So it was a shock when my partner first hit me. I had come
home late for dinner and she picked an argument. She threw plates
and glasses at me and then hit me. I did not defend myself as I
felt her behaviour was somehow normal. I ran out of the door with a
black eye and split lip. Afterwards she was apologetic and asked me
to forgive her. Her words were just the same as those my previous
male partner had used.

Throughout our relationship there were constant threats of
violence, intimidation and her insane jealousy. But I could not
leave. I contacted Women’s Aid, having done voluntary work there
many years earlier although I had felt unsupported by the
organisation when I experienced male domestic violence. It was a
difficult decision to approach it again as I was afraid I would see
people I’d worked alongside and feared they would judge me. I was
not offered a place of safety in a refuge but advised to contact a
solicitor to arrange an injunction. I felt let down and

I contacted the police and they advised to speak to a solicitor. I
knew how difficult it was to obtain an injunction so once again I
suffered in silence. I was frustrated, helpless and scared. I
didn’t know which way to turn and wanted to leave the abusive
relationship but didn’t know how. My work was affected and my GP
prescribed me anti-depressants and advised me to take time off.

My partner became more controlling. She phoned me when she was at
work to ask whom I’d spoken to and why. She checked the dialled and
received numbers in my mobile. I was becoming more afraid of her
and decided it had to stop. I told her I could not stay in the
relationship because I was afraid of her threats and violence. She
begged me not to leave but I did.

She came to my office several times and phoned me day and night. I
lived in fear. When I contacted the police again they told me to
seek legal advice and obtain an injunction. I told my ex this and
she said the harassment would stop. She now realises she has a
problem with anger and aggression and is having counselling for it.
We are on speaking terms again and I’m happy to support her through

The experience left me feeling afraid, confused and angry. I should
have recognised the signs and left the relationship before the
violence started. Now I’m back at work, rebuilding my life and will
start counselling soon. I no longer live in fear.

Charlotte McCarthy (not her real name) works for a
supported housing association dealing with vulnerable

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