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Physically and Sexually Abused Partner with Walls Built Up

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Hello, I am currently dating a woman who has been sexually assaulted as a child and physically assaulted as an adult. I am a very passionate and affectionate person and she can be too at times. But lately I notice she has pulled away from me emotionally and is keeping her distance by putting up a wall. We talk on the phone every day but when it comes to spending time together sexually or just 1 on 1, she avoids it. She puts up this persona that she is very tough and nothing bothers her but when she is alone that’s when she breaks down. You will never know that she is hurting because she will not show you at all. Because of the physical abuse by her son’s father, someone she truly trusted she is very insecure and does not let anyone near her heart. We have an amazing friendship but I feel what she has gone through as a child and adult is hurting our relationship. How do I handle the situation when she puts a wall up and refuses to communicate with me? (age 37, from US)

Physically and Sexually Abused Partner with Walls Built Up

Answered by on -


Thank you for writing in with this very sensitive question. The effects of abuse both from childhood or as an adult, can be deep, wide reaching and intermittent. In other words, sometimes she may be fine with intimacy and other times she will not be. A big factor also has to do with how much work she herself has done toward healing. You don’t mention if she is, or ever has been, in therapy to work through the effects of her past trauma. Either way, you might consider going together for a few sessions to improve your ability to meet her where she is and her ability to communicate what she needs at any given point in time.

Victims of abuse have been violated by another person, who many times, was someone who was supposed to love and care for them. It is understandable how there can be long standing issues with trust. Please try not to take this personally. Let her know how much you care for her and that you want to support her and her healing. Patience, empathy and consistency should eventually lead to greater emotional and physical intimacy. It may be a difficult journey, but a rewarding one.

I also recommend that you do some reading if you haven’t already. Two books that I find helpful are Outgrowing the Pain Together and Allies in Healing.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

Physically and Sexually Abused Partner with Walls Built Up

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). Physically and Sexually Abused Partner with Walls Built Up. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 30 Sep 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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