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Dear Amy,

I'm going to try to shorten this as much as possible so that I can get to my point without writing a book! Six years ago, I entered a long-term relationship with a woman who I believed was kind and loving. After a year, she changed. She became horribly violent. She beat me at least three times a week and I became so black and blue that I didn't want to leave my house anymore. Having never been an abuse victim, I was immobilized with fear and pain. She threatened me and told me that if I tried to leave, she'd kill me. So I stayed for almost three more years, too scared to tell anyone what was happening to me.

Toward the end, she almost killed me. She had strangled me and left me to die on the street. I reasoned that I would inevitably die if I stayed with her, so I went to court and requested a protection order hearing thinking that if I left, at least I would have a chance. The commissioner on our case reviewed my medical records and granted me a five-year protection order. She was ordered not to call me, contact me through other people, or come within 500 of feet of me.

Well, she has violated that order repeatedly in the year that I have had it. The police have been wonderful and patient at the numerous calls. They tell me to call every time she does something, even if I can't prove it's her, so they can document the harassment. Whenever the police think I have compelling evidence, I take her to court. But the judge (not the one who gave me the court order) keeps throwing my cases out. It's MY fault that I answered the phone when she called (I have caller ID and know when it is her). He felt that if I knew it was her, I was welcoming the threats and harassment by answering. And he thinks I should ignore her emails and not worry when she is driving by my house (I live on a side street that she would never need to use). Of course, I can't prove that she is trashing my car even though I have a recording of her saying that she was going to do it. There are too many things to mention, and all of them scare the hell out of me, but are trivial to the judge.

After I got away from my ex, I was trained as an advocate for battered woman and now I work at the local shelter. I help abused woman face their abusers in court, as advocates have done for me many times. What gets to me is that most straight woman win cases like mine, which is good, I want them to win. It just bothers me so deeply because I think he is treating me differently because I am a lesbian. I don't think he is taking my situation seriously.

I guess I'm not writing to you to seek answers. They just aren't there yet. But I believe that answers can evolve from the experience of women in my situation if we tell our stories and bring about awareness. It isn't widely believed or accepted that a lesbian would batter her female partner, but the reality is that lesbians have the same risk of being abused by their intimate partners as do heterosexuals. Somehow, people need to know this. I guess I'm telling you all this because you seem to be a one-woman database storing and processing all the issues that face the woman of America! Maybe you do have an answer. I really don't know what can be done to stop the violence, all I know is that I don't want to whisper about it anymore.

Thanks for listening and for all the wonderful work you do.
-EJ

 

Dear EJ,

Thanks for refusing to whisper. If less people stayed silent I honestly believe that there would be less violence. I recently had an experience that reminded of your situation. I was visiting a high school in northern California and I asked what issues they experienced at their school. The biggest issue was girls fighting and the fact that no one stopped them. We concluded that people didn't stop them because the perception is that two girls fighting can't do as much damage as two guys or a guy and girl. I think your judge has been subjected to this same line of thinking.

There are several programs out there - many pioneered by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, which is based in San Francisco - that are training judges for precisely this reason. Judges often don't understand how issues have evolved - or how they have always existed. Perhaps getting in touch with them would lead you to some resource about an existing program in your area or even about how to start such a program in your area.

Also, I was recently in Madison, WI and asked a group what the biggest issues in their community were. Lesbian battering was the most frequent response. And within this, the precise problem was the silence around it. So I think that work you are doing is resonating with work in other parts of the country. Also, in New York City there is The New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. I hope these suggestions lead you to greater answers and to safety

Take care and thanks again for speaking up.

Amy

 

 
 
 

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