Our Stories: Nicola's* story about her experiences of abuse
Publish Date: 29/06/2016
**This Page has content warnings for physical and emotional abuse, drug and alcohol use, financial depedency and self-harm**
As part of our campaign: 'Lesbian and Bisexual Women & Abuse', Nicola* tells us about her experiences of abuse.
I met Penny* through mutual friends a few years after I came out. Things progressed quite quickly between us despite her recent split with her girlfriend. They were going through their relationship breakdown whilst I was moving in, it was all very messy.
Later on in the relationship Penny’s ex-partner commented that I should be careful because Penny had a bit of a temper, at the time it wasn’t something that I thought about in any great detail or had any knowledge or understanding of the severity of what was to follow .
From the beginning our relationship seemed to go from one extreme to the other, and could be quite fickle and volatile. We were either completely smitten or embroiled in disputes about money, work, ex partners or Penny’s use of recreational drugs and alcohol.
I had previously encountered bad experiences with alcohol and recreational drugs through my teenage years so I tried to prevent her from going down that slippery slope, but that caused yet more conflict within the relationship.
As things progressed in our relationship I suffered some misfortune and lost my job. I became quite reliant on Penny (as she ran her own business) and I started working for her during this time. This caused me to have a certain amount of financial dependency on her. We hadn’t really developed any outside friendships and became isolated. This solitude became compounded because of my family’s reaction to my sexuality: they had completely cut me off and could not except me for who I was.
There were lots of traumatic incidents over the course of our relationship. I spent several evenings sat in Accident and Emergency with a probable broken nose and black eyes. In one incident Penny punched me in the face several times so hard that my eyes swelled up like golf balls to a point that I couldn’t see out of them for two days. I became reclusive.
On the few occasions that I did confide in people about what was going on I wasn’t taken seriously. I told one of my few friends about the abuse but he laughed it off and made a remark “were you fighting over the curling tongs or something” ? The abuse was just deemed as a girlie spat that couldn’t possibly result in any serious harm. This left me more confused than ever and forming the assumption that it was acceptable for a woman to behave in this way.
I tried to access help in the way of a safe house, however, the majority of safe houses were run by Christian or Women’s services. I experienced, that these types of organisations carry can act in heterosexist ways and have strict policies and ethos around sexuality. I was afraid to reveal my struggles and disclose my sexuality to them through fear of rejection and lack of acceptance.
Following my endeavours to escape from the relationship and having nowhere to go and nobody to turn to I became depressed and withdrawn. As a consequence of the ongoing abuse, lack of support and psychological affects this was all having on me, I self-harmed one day and was hospitalised in 2003. Arising from this incident my family contacted me and assured me that they would support me in leaving the relationship. They had never understood my sexuality and I worried that this would only reaffirm their belief system that homosexual relationships were wrong.
The fall out of my relationship with Penny is still with me to this day, the scars I carry are both with me physically and psychologically.
Today I am in a stable loving relationship with a woman and I have two beautiful daughters whom I love dearly.
As much as things have progressed for LGBTQI people over the years, there is still little support, understanding and education around this issue. As a result of my experiences I am now working with a charity called ‘Gender Free DV’ which educates services and professionals across the UK about the types of abuse people can encounter. Because of my experiences and because attitudes towards domestic abuse are still very stereotyped, I now campaign for organisations to adopt a non-gendered approach to domestic abuse. I hope that in doing this that there will be more support available for women, such as myself, who have been abused by another woman.
For more information about Gender Free DV, click here.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the people mentioned.