July 2, 2021

Reclaiming Sexuality after Sexual Assault

As a sexual assault survivor, I know how complicated the task of recovering from sexual assault can be. Our bodies are sacred. Every time they are not treated as such, the wounds cut deep, even more so when we are subjected to a form of violence that attacks us in our most vulnerable, intimate spaces where we should have absolute say over what does and does not occur. 

My experiences left me fractured, wanting to forget, or tell myself it didn’t happen, or brainstorm ways I could’ve prevented it. For many of us, we develop different ways of coping with these spiraling thoughts. Avoiding situations, places, or sensations that might remind us of the hurt. Creating mental distance between ourselves and the parts of our bodies that were wounded. Some of us surrender control of our vessels, thinking the next assault is unavoidable. More often than not, the people that sexually assaulted us are people we know, driving fear between ourselves and our desire to trust and love. 

Not everyone wants or needs to be sexual, but for those of us who do, getting back to a place where we can enjoy sharing our bodies with others can feel like an insurmountable task. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. The first step is to practice self-compassion as you work through the grief of what was done to you. You never asked to be hurt like this so how can it be your fault? As you love on your beautiful and worthy self, see if any of these steps might be helpful in getting your righteous groove all the way back:

  1. Identify non-sexual things that feel good. Maybe you like to read, eat special foods, or wrap yourself up in the softest blankets. Are there any scents you like? What do you think is beautiful? Write about the things that bring you joy. You might smile remembering all the things you already love.
  2. Remind yourself that sexual pleasure isn’t limited to genitalia. You’d think this was an abstract concept given how mainstream sex talk focuses on penetration. But the reality is there’s so much else that can bring you pleasure. Think about activities that feel sexy and sensual but don’t involve penetration. Do you like massages, reading erotica, lighting candles, feeding your partners, playing music, bathing with others, watching pornography, or talking about fantasies? If you need help thinking about activities, refer to your list about things that feel good and get creative.
  3. Work with your partner(s) to establish boundaries that make you feel emotionally and physically safe. This might be one of the most important things to do as a sexual assault survivor. It’s truly difficult to enjoy one’s sexuality when you don’t feel safe to do so. Please explore this handy worksheet if you’re needing some help around boundaries. You can do it worksheet alone or with your partner(s): https://www.autostraddle.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/sexapalooza-handout-branded.pdf 
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Individual counseling, group therapy, peer support groups, there are many people that want to help you recover. I encourage you to use all the tools at your disposal. As I tell myself, when you’re dealing with something greater than you, there’s no shame in tapping into something bigger than you for help. No one should have to deal with sexual assault alone. Find the community you need and connect.

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