Survivors often develop an exaggerated need for control in their adult relationships. It’s the only way they feel safe. They also struggle with commitment-saying yes in a relationship means being trapped in yet another family situation where abuse might take place. So the survivor panics as her relationship gets closer, certain that something terrible is going to happen. She pulls away, rejects, or tests her partner all the time.

It was early in my career, and I had been seeing Mary, a shy, lonely, and physically collapsed young woman, for about three months in weekly psychotherapy, dealing with the ravages of her terrible history of early abuse. One day I opened the door to my waiting room and saw her standing there provocatively, dressed in a miniskirt, her hair dyed flaming red, with a cup of coffee in one hand and a snarl on her face. “You must be Dr. van der Kolk,

Naw, I say. Mr ____, can tell you, I don’t like it at all. What is it to like? He git up on you, heist your nightgown round your waist, plunge in. Most times I pretend I ain’t there. He never know the difference. Never ast me how I feel, nothing. Just do his business, get off, go to sleep.
She start to laugh. Do his business, she say. Do his business. Why, Miss Celie. You make it sound like he going to the toilet on you.
That’s what it feel like, I say.
She stop laughing.