LGBT domestic violence: Inside the black triangle
By: Rebekah Roma
Content warning: This piece describes intimate partner violence.
Let me tell you when I realised you were hurting me.
It was in our old house, the one filled with the type of furniture four nineteen-year-old students can afford. I sat on the two-seater lounge with my friend Iris across from me on the recliner.
“How are you going, anyway?” she asked me.
The only answer I gave her were tears.
“That’s not a normal response to that question, love,” she said.
She moved over from the recliner to the couch with me. As I told her all the ways I was in fear of you, I couldn’t help but wonder why no one had pointed out to me earlier what was occurring.
I had been given the iced tea jug as a gift, and we had finished the last of the berry tisane before our fight. Burgundy dregs thick as blood swirled at the bottom of the carafe as you threw it against the opposite wall. I covered my ears for the detonation, but it didn’t shield me from the shrapnel glittering down on every surface. Splinters bit my fingers as I began to pick up the pieces.
“Stop!” you yelled. “I’ll clean it up. Don’t fucking touch it!”
I put the fragments down and proceeded to step over them every day for a week on my way to work. Tiptoeing over shards, I kept questioning what would happen if it had been me who shattered.
We were campaigning hard for marriage equality and our civil rights were precarious enough, without me voicing my troubles and providing ammunition for my co-workers and the Liberal party. I kept the door closed so our housemates wouldn’t see the destruction you were capable of and afterwards, I started drinking Earl Grey.
On a scratchy carpet floor, I sat in a circle of my teenage friends. Thus far Jesus had appeared to solve all our problems, because all our problems were high-school-sized. In the centre, our youth group leader told us about the abnormality of gay relationships.
“All of them end in adultery or violence,” he said.
I averted my eyes and thumbed the silver cross hanging from my neck. After coming out some years later, I would use this anecdote as a confirmation of the cruelty of the church and their propensity for viewing other humans as fundamentally damaged.
It never occurred to me that my heart could absorb such a profound message over the stench of teen body odour. But when I was hanging a poster over damaged plaster to cover the hole you punched in the wall, I was certain, as so many lesbian victims are, that this was the consequence of my own aberration.
My morning alarm perforated my hangover. The stench of urine accosted my nostrils and I leapt from the bed, regretting it immediately as I noticed an aching in my tailbone. You were snoring loudly, and the sheets darkened in colour around your thighs. I rubbed myself down with a wet wipe, put on my work uniform and left without our traditional forehead kiss. After the night before I didn’t know if you deserved it.
The evening prior was a friend’s 21st. Emboldened by alcohol I made a comment on the walk home you did not take to kindly. You turned to me with such malice in your eyes that even thinking about it now makes me shiver.
Faster than you should’ve been capable of in your intoxicated state, you shoved me downwards onto the road. The force of your hands reverberated through my shoulders and as I looked up at you the world faded away. I was not a person to you then. Your eyes spat acid at me. No cars were coming, but at the time, I wished they were.
Until the very end you maintained that you didn’t remember that night. I still don’t know if I believe you.
The air was cool, carrying away summer in a rustle of whiskey-coloured foliage. I was sitting in a café feeling the breeze on my skin when I heard how my experience sounded to others.
I had known something wasn’t right. I knew you were struggling mentally; I knew we were both unhappy, and we didn’t have great conflict resolution skills. We were 20 years old after all, and the L word didn’t prove a fantastic roadmap for healthy communication. But I also knew that you could make me laugh. I knew you were seeing a therapist and I knew we still had good times.
“Even relationships with domestic violence have good times,” my mum said through the phone.
The air stilled. I never would have classified my situation as ‘abusive’. There were extenuating circumstances. You weren’t the perpetrator I had been trained to be aware of, and I wasn’t looking for red flags while displaying a rainbow one. But even so, there I was; in a café at the changing of the seasons, the breeze carrying away the prior trajectory of my life with the leaves.
Rebekah Roma is a law and creative writing student at the Queensland University of Technology. Her writing is informed by her experience with intimate partner violence and focuses on power dynamics, the body, and lesbian aesthetics. Her work has appeared in GLASS magazine and is upcoming in issue 7 of Butch is Not a Dirty Word. She lives in Brisbane with her fiancé Eirin and her cat/son Robert.
For 24/7 support, please contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800respect.org.au. Alternatively, see QLife for early intervention and counselling support specific to LGBTI people.