The worst thing about abusive relationships is that the abuse often outlives the relationship. Women are broken and then have to piece themselves back together; they are knocked down and must regain the strength to stand and walk. But instead of getting closure and healing, often women just get shame and guilt. Too often they endure new unhealthy relationships, or even a continued relationship with the abuser because they couldn't tell anyone what happened. Or anxiety and depression will creep into their lives as they try to ignore and forget.
She believes she is the names he called her. She believes she didn't- and doesn't- deserve any better. She hates herself for not saying no loudly enough, or for rousing his anger again. She thinks it was her fault, and she is alone with her pain because she can't tell anybody about such a terrible thing.
Those women who finally find themselves in my office mourn their losses- lost childhood innocence, lost happiness, lost self. They mourn the beginning of the anxiety or the depression, the substance abuse, the nightmares, or the path of further bad decisions.
But with the tears comes relief, as they finally share their burden with someone. And I can never tell them enough that it wasn't their fault.
And that's when the abuse can finally end.