Sexual Trauma Isn’t the End of Intimate Relationships for You: How to Begin Healing
Posted by Soribel Martínez, LCSW
No one should ever have to experience sexual trauma.
Going through it, at any scale, can change your life forever. It can negatively impact your mental health, decrease your trust in people, and make it difficult to be in intimate relationships.
Even if you have a partner who is more than understanding and supportive, it’s not uncommon for survivors of sexual trauma to feel a combination of fear and guilt when they aren’t ready to be intimate with someone they love.
If that’s how you feel, you’re not alone.
But, you also don’t need to feel that way forever. Healing is possible. It starts with taking that first step. Let’s talk more about how you can do that.
Be in a Healthy Relationship
There is no rush to get into a relationship after experiencing abuse. But, if you’re considering taking part in sexual activity, being in a healthy relationship is important for your healing.
A healthy relationship needs to be based on love, compassion, and care. It needs to be a place that you, as a survivor, feel completely safe.
When you feel securely attached to your partner, you’re more likely to trust that no matter what happens between you, everything will be okay. It’s a simple thing, but a very big deal for survivors.
When you’re in a relationship, open communication is crucial. Ask for what you need. Tell your partner what’s necessary for you to feel safe. Some of those needs might include:
- Scheduling sexual activities so you know when to expect them
- Sharing intimate moments with the lights on
- Going at your pace or taking the lead
It’s also important that your partner knows any “triggers” you might have. For example, you might not be comfortable with them kissing a certain part of your body, or wrapping their arms around you from behind.
It’s not always easy to talk about what you’ve been through. But, the more open you are about your needs with your partner, the stronger your intimacy will become. Plus, having that support system is imperative for the healing process.
Build Up Your Self-Esteem
It’s not uncommon for survivors of sexual trauma to experience shame and guilt. Even though the traumatic experience wasn’t your fault, it’s easy to place blame on yourself and hide away in embarrassment and shame.
One of the best things you can do to heal is to treat yourself with compassion and kindness.
If someone you love approached you and told you they were sexually assaulted, how would you respond? You certainly wouldn’t tell them they should be ashamed of themselves. You would support them in any way you could.
It’s important to do the same for yourself.
Self-care can feel like a buzzword these days, but it’s a key component in treating yourself properly so you can start healing.
Healing from sexual trauma isn’t easy.
But, it can be more manageable when your expectations are realistic.
There will be roadblocks. Some days will be better than others. Certain things might trigger you until you’re able to move past them. It’s important to understand those roadblocks aren’t your fault, either. The fact that you’re trying to heal and move forward is huge, and not something everyone does as quickly as they should.
Remember, though, that you don’t have to go through the healing process alone.
When you experience roadblocks, getting through them is easier when you have a support system. That could include family members, friends, your partner, a support group, or a therapist.
Working with a mental health professional can give you the tools necessary to manage your fears and triggers every day. It can also help you move forward in your relationship, or be ready to accept intimacy in future relationships.
If you’re a sexual trauma survivor, feel free to contact me. Healing is within your reach, and taking that first step is often the hardest part.