Sex After Sexual Assault

Sex After Sexual Assault

TW: explicit discussion of sex, sexual assault and rape.

After I was raped, I interacted with the world of sex, dating and relationships very differently. Dating and sex is about much more than just getting to know people and interacting with those you’re attracted to, now. Sex has developed, been fabricated in representations and been simultaneously romanticised, glamourised and somehow demonised and entire industries have been constructed from its foundations, profiting from the complexities of it.

Without previous abuse, mistreatment and confusion regarding your own previous experiences, entering the world of sex and dating can be overwhelming and complicated for anyone, even when it’s exciting. So, when factors of previous abuse are weighed on top, the difficulties are not only reinforced, but blown out of proportion, and at times consuming.

I was raped by a former partner. The full story used to be here on my blog, but I deleted it for reasons I’m not sure even exist. If you’re one of these master jacker computer-whisperers, you can probably still find it.

The short version is, I was raped and sexually assaulted numerous times over the course of about a year by my ex-boyfriend, we broke up, and then a lengthy police investigation occurred which unfortunately got dropped.

Getting hurt on purpose by someone I cared about, who I thought returned that care, left me dysfunctional as a sexual being.

My body felt interrupted and uncared for. I didn’t trust my natural thought processes regarding other people, assuming I was naïve to trust them, and I felt as though I was walking around with a post-it note that had ‘sexual issues’ written on it.

Getting back into dating again felt like the pinnacle moment where I’d tried to be a functional member of society again.

But when you’ve been sexually assaulted by a boyfriend and jump back into dating again, it can feel like returning to the scene of a crime. I would think desperate, unhealthy thoughts like ‘this is dangerous. If I was raped in a field, would I return there and enable it again?’

Looking back now, it’s three years on and I’ve had time to process, and not move on, but shuffle forward a bit. I know these thoughts were unhealthy and damaging. And they were stopping me from living a normal life that despite everything, I was still equipped to live.

The first time I had sex after the relationship ended, I was after the first person I could find to just sleep with me, solely to make it so the last sex I had wasn’t something I didn’t ask for. It’s like an intensified version of the ‘palette cleansing’/’post break-up sex’ you search for when you leave someone.

I rushed myself into having sex again before I was ready, and this resulted in more pain and discomfort on top of what I’d already been through. This was reinforced by people around me. They had their best interest in mind, but it was ultimately damaging. Friends treated my breakup like the usual run-of-mill teenage split, and encouraged me to ‘get back out there’, to ‘have a few shots and go talk to that guy’, but how could I place trust with a man again after what happened the last time?

For some of us who escape sexually abusive relationships, sexual behaviour can be tainted by past experiences through things like not being able to say ‘no’ confidently, having casual sex when that’s not usually your preference, or discomfort and present trauma during intercourse.

When I first started dating properly again and found myself a shiny new boyfriend who didn’t frighten me, I had sex where for the first time in a year, I’d actually wanted to.

It started normally. In his bed. With him.

Kissing, then touching.

Then awkward stacked positioning like an elaborate scaffolding.

And then, sex. Consensual sex.

Finally.

But as soon as anything secured, I’d flashed back to another time in the past where things hadn’t been so steady, and more frightening.

It was horrible.

I had a panic attack, and my boyfriend-of-the-time immediately stopped and tried to comfort me, though he panicked a lot along with me (understandably).

I hadn’t been honest with him about the trauma I’d undergone so soon before dating him. I hadn’t gone through my own boundaries with him, or any triggers likely to show up from our relationship. In hindsight, I know this was wrong of me. I owed it to him to be honest about my discomfort, and I more importantly owed it to myself.

It’s entirely understandable that a person’s perception of their sex life can become tangled by trauma. But that doesn’t have to continue being the case if you put the time into attempting to heal, being honest with yourself and partners about your woes and boundaries and putting a few extra steps in place.

It’s frustrating and upsetting that these steps need to be taken, and you will often find yourself (like I did) comparing yourself to those without trauma who don’t have to put these measures in place to have sexual relationships – but it’s worth it.

The relationship following my abusive one was problematic in its own right, but it’s because I forced myself into false normalcy by pressuring myself to be in a relationship again. Following this, I took the steps I always should have, and was able to have normal sexual relationships again.

And with that, here are five tips from me on how to start dating and having a positive sex life again after sexual assault.

(I wrote these posts to be published at the same time so that the experience wouldn’t be here without the advice – click through to read the steps!)

Follow:
bethashley
Share:

2 Comments

  1. October 6, 2018 / 11:21 am

    Thank you so much for writing this Beth! I don’t usually talk about this much (in real life or on the internet) but the same thing happen to me with my ex-boyfriend too. I ended up with vaginismus and even though I’m in a lot better place now, sex can still be uncomfortable and I can’t say I have much interest in it anymore. When I first started talking to Chris (my now partner) I made sure to tell him the whole story and the problems I have because of it, and after reading what you’ve said – I’m definitely glad I made the decision to tell him.

    I hope you can keep shuffling forward with your recovery lovely!xx

    Jade | jademarie.co.uk

    • bethashley
      Author
      October 17, 2018 / 1:21 pm

      I’ve only just seen this comment! So sorry this happened to you – I’ve had a little bit of vaginismus too and I think I’m gonna write a post on it. I’ve always had it but it particularly worsened after that relationship. I’m glad we’re both with nice people now! And it really does make a difference to tell your partner everything you’re going through so they can almost tailor the experience and understand your requirements xxxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *