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What Should I Do When a Sexual Abuse Survivor Pushes You Away

I began dating a friend. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Things were going good and then she started pushing me away. Even going so far as to being mean. She insists that she has tried therapy and that she doesn’t want to talk about or deal with her issues. We broke it off but I want to save our friendship and help her. She has a history of drug abuse, she can’t go a day without either drinking, using drugs, drinking kava or kratom to excess. I’m scared that if she doesn’t deal with her issues she is going to continue to sabotage relationships, or get into bad relationships (which she has a long habit of as well), and that she will one day relapse completely again and hurt herself. She doesn’t seem happy. What can I do to get her to acknowledge she needs help, and if possible to save our friendship. I don’t want to push her and make things worse, but I’m scared that her other friends that know she has these problems are not doing her justice by indulging her in trying to bury her issues.

A: While I admire your desire to help, the best thing you can do is let your friend have the dignity of managing her own pain. The chances are that her original trauma involved being betrayed by someone she trusted. This means that your efforts may, in and of themselves, activate her. The difficult part here is that if she doesn’t want help, then you trying to impose your agenda you will be forcing it on her — that is exactly what she doesn’t need.

Be compassionate and offer help if she wants it, but don’t make your need for her to get better override her readiness.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

from Ask the Therapist


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