George Clooney's girlfriend LISA SNOWDON is relieved she's dating a kind, gentle man - because her previous boyfriend subjected her to five years of physical and mental abuse.

The model, 33, was forced to flee to Australia 10 years ago because her womanising ex-lover, who she refuses to name, regularly beat her and forced her to conceal his violent attacks.

And she's convinced her relationship with the OCEAN'S TWELVE hunk is a reward for her years of suffering.

She explains, "It was my first big relationship and it was just very abusive. My parents were divorcing, and I think at certain times of your life you do attract the wrong type of person. You don't know any better, and you don't know how you'd like to be treated.

"At the beginning it was more mental. Then it was just physical. Just abusive. Afterwards I was looking into it, and they do say that stronger or more successful women often get picked on and manipulated - it's very odd.

"I was really good at covering stuff up. Like when I had a black eye. I was really good at going, 'I fell over and slipped and hit my head'. We were together for five years. He was awful. A womaniser, unfaithful, just a nasty piece of work.

"So I really appreciate my relationship with George. I deserve it after all that suffering."

02/05/2005 02:22