met my girlfriend at a party that a friend hosted. She was intelligent, beautiful, and had a wonderful sense of humor. Our relationship devel­oped rapidly and the closeness we shared was some­thing I had never experienced before. It is difficult to remember exactly when the abuse began because it was subtle. She criticized me because she didn’t like my cooking, and she occasionally called me names when we argued. I didn’t think much about it because she had recently lost custody of her daughter to her ex-husband because of her sexual orientation and was angry, irrita­ble, and depressed. She often threatened suicide and attempted it during an argument that we had and then blamed me for calling 911 for help. Despite the stress she was experiencing, she was very supportive of me when my family "disowned" me after I came out to them. When I bought my first car, she insisted I put it in her name. Although we had periods of profound hap­piness, our arguments increased in frequency as did her drinking and drug use. I kept telling myself that things would get better but they never did. She continually ac­cused me of being unfaithful (I wasn’t) and even once raped me after claiming I had flirted with a supermar­ket cashier. The first time she hit me I grabbed her wrist

and twisted her arm to keep from being hit again. My response frightened me so much I suggested we see a couple’s counselor, and she agreed.

Couple counseling was not helpful, and although things felt worse, our therapist said that was normal so we persevered. I began scrutinizing my own behavior believing that if I could only do things better or differ­ently our life together would improve. It wasn’t until she pulled a knife on me that I realized that it wasn’t going to change for the better. . . it was only going to get worse. I called a crisis line and the counselor sug­gested that what I was experiencing was domestic vio­lence. That had actually never occurred to be because we were both women. Leaving her was the hardest thing I have ever done.

It’s still difficult to think of my situation as domestic violence but with the help of my counselor and support group, I am learning that women can be violent to other women, that anger, stress, depression, alcohol and drugs do not cause violence, that violence is a choice the abuser makes, and finally, that I am not to blame.

Source: National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 1998.

Intimate partner violence in same-sex relationships looks similar to IPV in hetero­sexual relationships. However, in same-sex relationships there are additional issues that may arise, including being “outed” if a partner tries to get help or leave the relationship. Outing when a person is not ready could result in employment or social issues (National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 1998). One lesbian survivor of intimate partner violence tells her story in the accompanying Personal Voices, “Domestic Violence in Lesbian Relationships.”

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