Q: Hello. I am twenty-one years old and am involved with a twenty year old girl who suffered sexual abuse from her step father when she was a child (from as early as she can remember until the age of eleven or twelve).

I know that it is affecting our intimate relationship as well as relationship as a whole. I want to help her so badly but whenever I try to approach the situation, she tells me to quit bringing the topic up because it only forces her to think about it and causes her pain.

I’m tired of her suppressing her hurt because I know that it is doing her lots of damage. Please Help!

What should I do and how do I approach the situation?

A: First of all I just want to say that what your girlfriend went through was awful and I’m so sorry such horrible things happened to her.

I also want you to know that I admire your desire to help her and your caring for her. And it is also very clear that you will have to respect her boundary regarding bringing these things up. (Everyone gets along better when others respect their boundaries, but anyone who was sexually abused as a child absolutely MUST have strong and clear boundaries that are not violated by the current people in her life.)

There’s an excellent book I wish you and your girlfriend would read. It’s called “The Courage To Heal.” It is going to take a lot of courage on your girlfriend’s part to get and benefit from the therapy she needs to overcome her abuse. This book can help her to know she’s not alone and give her good ideas about how her healing will go, etc.

The book also has an excellent section for partners of people who have been abused, and that’s the part you’ll need to focus on. (You could buy a copy, read the parts you want to read, and then give it to her to keep and read if she wants to, now or later. But don’t insist on talking with her about the book, of course. That would be the boundary problem.)

Thanks for writing! Feel free to show your girlfriend this letter. (Did she know you were writing to me about this?)

Let me know if I can be of any further help.

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