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

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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.

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

Answered by on -


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

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

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). What Should I Do When a Sexual Abuse Survivor Pushes You Away. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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