She didn’t look like an abuser…

Date: January 1, 1970
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A hot September morning in 2005, a slight puff of air coming through the window woke me up with a smile. The first thing I did was to go look at myself in the mirror and appreciate life. That was the first time I woke up with a smile on my face, because I usually find it difficult to wake up. I was excited to see what the day had in store for me. Everything about that day felt right, the flowers were bright and vivid whilst the trees were so green, I felt like I was seeing the garden of Eden. It was probably one of the most beautiful days of my life; the day just felt right.

On the day, I had a workshop to conduct. I arrived at the venue 45 minutes early and I began to prepare the training room. There was a knock on the door, as I turned I saw this innocent looking young woman was participating in the lesbian sexual health workshops. She came early just to tell me that she would be starting at work and that she’ll join us a bit later. After she left, I could not stop thinking about her, and fortunately, she did join us later in the day.
After the workshop, the group decided to play pool and I went, even though I could not even hold a cue stick. That very same evening we both realised that we liked each other and we decided to take it further. She was my first love; she was very sweet, kind, loving and our connection was amazing. “She’s everything I’ve ever wanted,” I thought.
Just three months later, she was telling me what to do, where to go and she even started choosing friends for me. My first thought was that this was a sign of her love. She took this further by coming to my workshops and meetings and for a while, I enjoyed it, until it started being too much. I had to report to her where I was going, when and with whom. On my return, she would follow me around, I never had time on my own, she would even go through my phone checking my received dial.
I started doing things she didn’t want me to do like talking to other lesbian women in the clubs. Every time I would break one of “her rules” she would be pissed off and demand we leave the club. During one outing, I spoke to another lesbian woman and, as usual, my partner’s reaction was to get angry and demand that we go home immediately. Once in the car, she slapped me. I was so shocked that I didn’t even cry. I think my decision to forgive her for this, made her think that she had power over me.
She complained about minor things, like her view that making eye contact was giving people the impression that I wanted them and this lead to more fights. We were staying together at a flat. She kept on coming to all my workshops, even during the week. I asked her why she was available every day especially on weekdays and her response was that, as the boss at her own work, she doesn’t have to go in everyday. It bothered me because being the boss does not mean that you have to stay at home everyday and expect your colleagues to do all the work.
As a volunteer at OUT LGBT organisation, all they could offer us was a stipend. I kept asking her what was going on at work and she still wasn’t honest with me. She lied about other things as well, such as her age. She was so tiny she looked 22, whilst she was 30. I was 20 years old when I met her. I remember she told me she was 24 years old. I believed her until her ex girlfriend told me her true age. I confronted her about it and she laughed at me saying, “I can’t believe you believed that I was 24.” For her that was the funniest thing ever.
She started being physical in her fights with me. When I realised she was no longer employed, we eventually had to move out of the flat because we could not afford to pay both the car and rent. Once she couldn’t pay for the car anymore, she became violent and hated every human being, including herself. She became this cruel ugly mad woman, whom I believed no longer had a heart. She would push and slap me for smiling with other women. Every time she fought with me, I would tell her to stop and she wouldn’t listen, until one day when I laid my hands on her and fought back. It didn’t feel good but I had to do it so that she could stop.
Two months later, I ended the relationship and initially she acted as if she was accepting my decision. Shortly after, she tried to commit suicide and the police came to the restaurant where I was working at the time to ask about her suicide attempt. The police woman suggested that I give her another chance, and then I told them the whole story so as to give them the full picture. The fighting continued whenever we met (even though we were no longer dating). One time she took my bag and cellphone and I opened a case of theft against her, which led to her arrest. I later withdrew the case.
We did not talk for a long time until I accidentally bumped into her at a club and we had  another fight. I couldn’t understand why she was still fighting with me because we were not an item anymore. I told her that I didn’t ever want to see her again. I left and I didn’t see her again after that night. On July 15, I got a call from her friend telling me that she had passed away. I didn’t believe it and my immediate thought was this was one of her schemes, until I called her mother to confirm. I was really hurt and couldn’t even go to the funeral because I had to attend my aunt’s wedding. The funeral and the wedding was on the same date and I had to follow my instinct, which was being my aunt’s bridesmaid.
I do miss her a lot. I think what hurts the most is the fact that I told her that I did not want to see her again. I’m still healing and I think the first step is to forgive myself because I believe that for me to fight back it means I also contributed to the domestic violence.
This story is part of the “I” Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.

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