A lot of people who has experienced sexual trauma later struggle with having a satisfying sex life. I see a lot of people in my clinic that struggle with exactly this issue. There is never an easy fix to return to life with all that entails after a traumatizing experience. But there are things to try out, and the road home can be both beautiful and moving. In this article you can read about a number of exercises you can try out for yourself, but remember to consult a professional, if your everyday life is impacted by trauma (see the last part of the article for a checklist)
What do you want to do?
Something a lot of people struggle with after sexual trauma, is really noticing and feeling their needs. Not just sexually, but also more generally. Being able to notice and articulate what you want, can be the first step in setting boundaries. Practice noticing and feeling your body, and how you experience your body when you have a need for something. Maybe you know that you love chocolate or chips. Or maybe the best thing for you is to visit a certain store, and try out some stuff. It doesn't have to be complicated. For example, I personally like walking around the local plant nursery, even if im not planning on buying anything.
The body will give you signs
When you do something familiar, that you know you like doing, how does your body feel? Does it feel a little light? Is it a certain temperature? Are there parts of your body that feels more active than others? Try focusing on just one specific thing, and imagine that you're allowed to take that thing home with you. Imagine that you're allowed to fill up the shopping basket with anything you want, and the cashier tells you "today you're not paying, today you're just going to treat yourself". What does that thought do to your body? Does it make you smile? Practice noticing what a very clear "yes" feels like in the body, or noticing what desire feels like in more difficult or complicated situations. The more you practice, the more you can trust your body to tell you, if you want something or not.
Explore yourself before doing it with a partner
Sex with a partner can be somewhat complicated when you have experienced sexual trauma. I always urge people to explore your own body and your own desires first, if you're up for it. Be a little curious about your body. Maybe you can start with rubbing an oil or a cream on your body very slowly, and maybe try to feel if there are areas that feel more pleasurable than others. Maybe you could try visiting the Peech product site, and imagine how you could use the many different vibrators. You're allowed to laugh and have fun with it. And the goal is not an orgasm, but simple exploration, without the pressure of another person involved.
Signs you need to seek help
The before mentioned exercises might seem a little simple, but for some they can be very helpful. But sexual trauma can give really serious late effects, so seek help from a professional if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Returning flashbacks or nightmares
- Trouble eating at all or eating too much
- A feeling of not being present in the body
- Avoiding places or things that remind you of the assault
- Extreme sadness
Lastly, I feel compelled to tell you that you are not alone, even if it feels like that right now. There are always people around to help, even when it feels difficult reaching out. And things can get better.