She’s only 22 and has 3 children under the age of 5. Her Mother is raising them and has given up hope for her, well, almost. She sent her back home to her family for help, for more rehab. The 5th time she has been in a rehabilitation unit. This time she walked away from it, didn’t even give it a chance, just detoxed and left. I guess it had been at least 6 years since I saw her. She was then a teenager with long dark hair, long legs and beautiful olive skin. She was troubled looking casting her eyes downward when spoken to. Her aversion to looking you in the eye was a by product of her years of abuse by her stepfather. It all made perfect sense later when we found out the ugly, awful truth. The quiet somewhat shy girl, who later could not look anyone in the eye even stopped laughing or smiling like she used to. There was something about her, a feeling you got that you could not quite put your finger on. A gut feeling that should have been paid closer attention to………..by all of us. When her stepfather started keeping her contact with anyone outside of their home to a minimum it really made you wonder. It was not long after that he was found out and subsequently sent to prison. Good riddance you say and rightly so, however………. The physical abuse stopped and she and her family moved away to another state. Years later, her stepfather is back out in the world doing God only knows what while her life is in shambles………..still. The promiscuity that followed seemed ironic to me, yet I believe that may be typical. I am no expert on abuse and the aftermath, but from what I have witnessed, self- abuse stays on inside the victim. The heavy drug addiction that followed should probably not have been a surprise, yet it was. Why you wonder? You get rid of the bastard, put him away and she is free to live her life. Free to recover and heal and move on to the life that she deserves. But, it does not happen that way. She has ulcers on her arms, and scars on her once lovely face. You can see the beauty that was there only a few short years ago. Her teeth look like they are on their way out also. It was quite shocking to see her. I wanted to hug her and say what happened to you and why? But instead I just hugged her and said, “Hey there, what are you doing? “ I did not have to ask how, I could see how she was doing. I knew what had happened without being in her life all of those years. I did not want to be close to her, did not really want to hug her until I saw her. Afraid of her addiction touching my life, as it was already touched by another family member’s addiction, there was no room for more. But, when I saw her I felt like crying, the sadness weighs heavily on me now, even as I write this. I realize that the abuser has served his time and is free, while the victim, my once sweet little niece has a destroyed life. Her children do not have a mother that is whole. All are affected. It is sad that punishing the abuser does not change things, but there can never be justice for something of this nature. It is just not possible. Maybe she would have become a junkie anyway, even with a normal childhood. I will never know the answer. I do believe that there is a point where she has a choice, to either nurture or punish herself, but it still angers me to my core. This chain of events that he has set off. This ruination of a life or her offspring’s lives. It angers me that he is free while she may never be………………………………….