It Happened To Me: My Girlfriend Was Abusive

Somehow I let her hurt me. I chalk it up to a combination of immaturity and never expecting domestic violence to come in the package of my supposedly feminist, future doctor girlfriend.

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

There weren't that many cute, butch lesbians in my high school. As far as I knew, there was exactly one and her name was Dee. In English class, we were assigned to do a book report on "Moll Flanders" (which I still haven't read) and love blossomed from there.

She was cute in a bug-eyed, toothy way, had a short boyish haircut, was seemingly funny and smart and I was sold. We stayed together even when I graduated from high school a year early and moved an hour away while she finished high school. It didn't bother me much that I was  distracted from developing an identity and social life in college because, you know, loooove.

We both had cars, and I had a dorm room, so it was actually a pretty sweet situation (maybe less so for my roommates, as she and I were humping like bunnies on the constant.)

Before there was violence, there was just irrational weirdness. We were at the mall getting ready for her prom and I was shopping with a friend while Dee got her hair cut. But when I wasn't where we'd agreed to meet at exactly the agreed-upon time, she stole my car (she knew I had one of those magnetic key things tucked under the bumper) and left me stranded at the mall. Once I finally found her, she threw my dress out of her bedroom window.

But then within in the hour, everything was fine and we went to prom (she looking dashing in her tux and tails) and had a fabulous time. That's how it often was  -- scary bursts of intense anger then everything back to normal. So normal that you forgot what happened. Until it happened again, of course.
 
Although she was clearly getting worse, my young dumb mind decided we should still move in together. So when she started college in the same town, we moved into a shitty apartment. At first, things were fine, good even. We stayed up all night writing papers, we got in kitchen sink sprayer fights, we tried to learn to cook, we unfolded the couch bed in the living room and laid on it for weeks, we had a lot of sex.

But things took a turn one night when there was a fight involving, of all things, baby carrots. Something set her into a rage and she locked herself in the bathroom and threatened to hurt herself while I banged and banged on the door. Eventually she came out and ran out to the parking lot and I followed her out there. I didn't think she seemed OK to drive. I was trying to physically bar her from entering her car and she twisted her keys into my belly -- the first outwardly violent thing she'd ever done. I was stunned and let her drive away.

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It escalated. I probably outweighed her by 30 pounds, but it was never a matter of physical strength, it was the psychological pull she had over me. I felt like it was my job to protect her from herself by letting her take it out on me. I was so scared she'd hurt herself that somehow I let her hurt me. I chalk it up to a combination of immaturity and never expecting domestic violence to come in the package of my supposedly feminist, future doctor girlfriend.

When you realize you're in this kind of situation, you don't typically tell people about it because it feels like some kind of moral failing -- what kind of intelligent woman lets herself be treated like this? Also, I wasn't out to my family so that made it all the more impossible to go to my parents. I didn't want to hit them with a 1-2 punch "I'm a lesbian AND my girlfriend beats me!" But the longer you go without telling anyone, the longer you can keep rationalizing it to yourself.
 
Like your textbook abuser, she isolated me from my friends and eventually even alienated the friends she'd made from the LGBT group at her school with her erratic behavior. She wasn't so much "beating" me every day, she would just blow up and act erratic on occasion. She never left marks.

I went with her to buy a BB gun at WalMart, despite the fact that she clearly was not someone who needed any kind of weapon. She never shot me with it, but being pistol-whipped with one was weird and painful. There were a few instances where I was sincerely afraid she would kill me.

One New Year's, we went out of town and I woke up with her hands around my neck choking me which lead to me chasing after her barefoot through streets littered with broken beer bottles. There was a Fourth of July spent tied up while she threatened to beat me with an acoustic guitar and throw me in the creek behind her parent's house.

While those instances were horrible in their own right, the worst part was feeling such despair and worthlessness that in the face of possible death I was like "Whatevs." Not suicidal, but not actively into preserving my own life either. I'm so far from that mentality now that it's hard to comprehend but I was just certain that I deserved whatever fate I got because I wasn't good enough to fix her. She was troubled and grew up abused and less well off and I was raised in an idyllic middle class white life and why did I deserve to be so privileged? I had convinced myself that the abuse was a tithe for my uncomplicated upbringing.
 
In addition to those troubles, she was very conflicted about having a more masculine gender expression and especially took issue with how much I liked her butchness and penetrative sex with a dildo. (Yes, I was the one who encouraged her to wear an argyle sweater vest with no shirt underneath to look like Mark McGrath from the Sugar Ray video for "When It's Over" ... don't judge me, it was 2001 and he really rocked that look!)

Now, to be fair, I have dated men exclusively since our relationship (I admit it, I am a hasbian AKA four year queer AKA LUG -- lesbian until graduation) but at the time, this just seemed so mean because I honestly didn't want to be with anyone but her. I'd never been with a man at that point and at the time men repulsed me. Sexuality is complicated! But her mental instability made the issues into ticking time bombs.
 
Aside from the terrifying blowups, things were sometimes good -- my grades suffered and I felt a general dull sense of hopelessness but it really wasn't all bad, all the time. We ate a lot and watched movies and between her rages, we had fun.

We started to befriend a neighbor -- Jim -- a single dude older than us who was cool and watched our dog for us and liked good music. One weekend she went out of town to visit her little sister and I had the nerve to play Scrabble with him. Her discovery of this illicit board game led to my first and only black eye. I still didn't end things.

She transferred to a school four hours away and moved away but she still came to visit and it would always end in an altercation. One evening, on the phone, she threatened to drive four hours from her apartment to kill me for some inane reason and it all just finally clicked -- I don't need to take this shit.

I told a friend, spent the night at her place, bagged up Dee's stuff for her to pick up and it was over, easy as that. Well, not that easy -- she continued to stalk me for the next four years: calling me even when I got a new number, showing up at least 3 different places I worked and my parent's house, maintaining a blog devoted to me. She was never aggressive in her stalking, oddly enough. Always just seeking apology and closure.

I told her that I forgave her as long as she got help and didn't hurt anyone else. I have no idea if she's help up her end of the bargain.