Firstly there is no such thing as an abusive relationship.  Truth is, 99% of the time it is one person controlling and showing aggression to another, within an intimate relationship. Another truth is, 90% of the time it's a man against his female partner.

Anna Pinkerton

Anna Pinkerton

The role of shame in a relationship where there is control and violence is complex and compounding.  You have the shame that the victim feels for not seeing through the perpetrator and for feeling stupid for falling for his act.  On top of that, you also have the shame that is projected on to you from family, your community and society at large.  We still live in a society that is more outraged by women finding themselves with abusive men, than the fact that men abuse the women they are in an intimate relationship with.  THIS is a disgrace but it's tolerated.

Though convictions of perpetrators has increased, deaths of women at the hands of male partners has not reduced.  SHAME is the REASON.

Whilst we live in a society that shames the woman for finding herself in such a place, we trap her and whilst we all stand by and accept this in silence, we are all responsible.  The commonplace saying 'Shame on you' truly means to shroud you with something that keeps you apart from others, keeps you down, keeps you hidden, keeps you despising yourself.  These are the very same messages that an abusive partner perpetrates within a relationship!  Why would a society want to do this to its women?

The thing is shame is effectively a heavy type of conscience.  Feeling the 'prick of conscience' is a normal and necessary part of being human.  It creates good and lovely people who feel bad about things they've done or not done, and things they're not proud of. However, heavy shame is intended to brutalise people and keep people stuck. In this case women. (Interestingly most perpetrators of abuse never say sorry, they blame the woman and never feel bad for what they've done.  The victim however is shrouded in it)

All shame left without love, kindness and support swells to become overwhelming.  Suppressed shame over a long period can lead to depression, anxiety, unfulfilled dreams, potential and lives. It saddens me that this is the case. Overwhelming shame causes paralysis in mind and often in body.   

Whilst shame is left unattended, it festers away underneath the day-to-day things you need and want to do.  Shame will grow and breed lots of fabulous adaptations to help you deal with it. We learn to hate ourselves, we learn to 'swallow' our needs, we learn to feel embarrassed, we learn to hide; we learn to stay small; we learn to keep secrets; we will develop anxiety; we will struggle to learn; we will be depressed; we learn to stay away from relationships, we won’t fulfil our potential or our desires.

6 ways to transform shame:

  1. Know it is not your shame to carry
  2. When the 'shame pain' hurts, comfort yourself with kind words, and kind actions
  3. Remember nobody deserves to experience abuse in any relationship whatsoever
  4. Ask yourself ‘Is the shame holding me back?'
  5. Feel the shame, and talk about it, write about it BUT don't hold it in
  6. Grieve for what you've been through and for the time you've lost, then you can move on.

Article written by Anna Pinkerton, author of Smile Again: Your Recovery from Burnout, Breakdown and Overwhelming Stress, available from Amazon, priced £9.99.

Anna Pinkerton is a therapeutic coach, corporate therapist and a leading expert in post-traumatic stress disorder.  For more information, visit