I have a female friend who was sexually abused as a child and it
led to the whole family being separated. Her mother could not leave her
husband (step-father to my friend). Now my friend is an adult and still
maintains a relationship with her abusers, mother and stepfather. Her
siblings and biological family will not to talk to her because she
maintains contact with her step-father and mother.
She told me that she wanted to be my friend. It's a very difficult
relationship. It causes me hurt feelings. She can intentionally hurt my
feelings when things don't go her way. And she must "control" every aspect
of the relationship. Her desperate need for a friendship is what keeps me
her friend. She even has tried therapy and claims that she was abused by her
I was abused as a child and had no support system; I have recovered to a
functional level. Is this healthy for me?
As I understand your situation, since you have personally
experienced abuse in your family and had no support, you feel a kinship to
your friend. Since she has managed to alienate her family, has no support
system, and even found therapy abusive, you do not want to abandon her. You
find yourself to be her only source of support. However, you find her
behavior toward you controlling and hurtful. Because you feel sorry for her
you find it difficult to leave. Yet you are wondering whether this
relationship is good for you. Are you hurting yourself by remaining her
friend and thinking more about her than about your own well-being?
Sometimes when people are abused as children, they may grow up and have
difficulty forming positive relationships with others. In fact, they often
seek out the company of abusive people out of a sense of familiarity. Just
as dogs abused as puppies may seek the approval of their abusive masters,
people can often behave similarly. And when they meet people who are kind to
them, they become abusive toward them. Additionally, people abused as
children may have difficulty forming attachments. They tend to push the
limits of others, often forcing rejection or seeing those who do not give in
to their demands as abusive. You and perhaps even her therapist may have
been put in that category.
I would suggest that you consider limiting your contact with your friend in
order to take care of yourself. You might be slipping into a similar pattern
of seeking the friendship of abusive people such as your friend. I further
suggest that you recommend that your friend seek out a self-help group for
those who were abused. She could find information about these groups else
where in our magazine and through the
Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist,
Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing
psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years.
He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation,
couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and
assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing
Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.