I've thought about telling her mother and father and staging an intervention, but I feel like that would be an unforgivable betrayal. I also worry that her conservative parents would stop paying her tuition and rent if they knew about the relationship.
Early on, I thought about telling the man's wife, but they have an open marriage and apparently the professor's wife doesn't object to her husband sleeping with my friend.
I told one of our university counselors about the relationship and he told me that since my friend isn't taking a class with this professor, he isn't violating the university's amorous-relationships policy.
She’s told me that she talks to her therapist about the relationship but doesn't disclose that he's a professor who's 30 years older than she is. She says that the large age gap is irrelevant since she's an adult.
It should be noted that my friend suffers from depression, has a strained relationship with her own father, and was sexually abused by her uncle when she was 13. She's precisely the type of girl that a predator would prey on.
I don't know what I can do to get her to leave this relationship. I love her with all my heart and want to help her, but I honestly have no idea what course of action I should take. I'm praying that you'll answer this question, because I have no one I can talk to about this issue.
New York City
I’m so sorry you’re dealing with such a difficult situation. I can see how much you care about your friend, and understand how scary and lonely it must be navigating this on your own while feeling helpless. But while you’re asking me how you can help your friend, I don’t think she’s the only one who needs help here. I think you do, too. In fact, there’s some overlap between your predicament and hers.
You’re right that your friend is being manipulated, but in a way, so are you. One hallmark of an abusive relationship is a kind of secrecy that goes something like this: We’re not doing anything wrong here, but don’t tell anyone. It’s just between us. Of course, if nothing sketchy were going on—if the professor and his wife thought it was fine for one of them to have a sadomasochistic sexual relationship with the woman who cares for their child, while keeping the relationship a secret (I assume) from the child who thinks of her as a trusted caregiver—there would be no need for secrecy, either on his end or your friend’s. A soulmate isn’t supposed to be a secret.
But many abusers are master manipulators, and the key point of leverage is the supposedly close bond that exists between an abuser and their victim: What we have between us is special, but outside people won’t understand. I imagine that this professor is using reasoning like that with your friend—but also that she, explicitly or not, is using it with you. You’re my best friend so I can tell you about this. But my conservative parents won’t understand, so don’t betray me.