Sex After Sexual Assault

I was watching Law & Order SVU. I had been depressed, which meant I was binge watching whatever was on TV that day. As I watched, I kept thinking back to my childhood. Before the depression began, before it felt like I was falling apart and unraveling: slowly but consistently. I had stuffed the memories down, as deep as they could go, so deeply I had forgotten them.

I was sexually assaulted by a family member, multiple times, over the course of a year.

I was 12.

I started crying because I felt more broken than ever. From that day, I’ve worked to come to terms with it.

As a teen, I had gone through a period of sleeping with almost every man I interacted with, under the guise of owning my body and sexuality. I was partying and binge drinking a lot, which also meant I put myself in situations where I could not consent and experienced further sexual assault. It also meant I was putting myself at risk of contracting STIs. As I began to feel like maybe deep down I had used sex as a sadistic punishment for myself, I learned that hypersexuality was a potential symptom of early childhood trauma.

I couldn’t have sexual partners for a period of time. Once I remembered, I couldn’t forget. The slightest touch, smell, or even a question would bring all of those memories to the front of my mind. I slowly started talking about it more, when I made a new friend I would disclose to them my experience which helped me work towards being okay with talking about it and it’s still hard. I tend to feel like I’m choking on my words, fighting off the urge to cry.

I’ve only had one sexual partner since, and it ended fairly quickly after I disclosed my sexual assault to him. I had chosen to tell him because we had been dating and I hadn’t been triggered with him like I had been in the past. We were at a point where things seemed to be getting more serious, but shortly after I told him, he said he needed to take a step back because he didn’t think he could handle anything serious at that time.

I still haven’t told my family. I don’t know how they would take it. I know my mom would probably blame herself, that’s the type of person she is and I don’t want her to feel like it was at all her fault. I’ve thought about telling them, and imagined how I would and what I would say. But I always end up crying just thinking about it.

I learned that sexual assault isn’t actually about sex. It’s about power.

That person chose to wield power of me at an age when I could not consent or fully understand what was happening. They took away my power to decide. And it had some long-term life altering effects on me. Trusting my body with another person is difficult and that trust is easily abused by careless people. At times, I wonder if I will ever meet someone that I can fully trust my body with or if I will always question their intentions.

In the meantime, I do choose to trust my heart with my friends and family, working to strengthen my relationships with everyone that surrounds me.

Ultimately, every person that experiences sexual assault reacts differently. It doesn’t look the same from person to person, which means that sex after sexual assault will be different for each person. What’s important is that we have compassion and resources for those going through their own healing process.

You can visit RAINN.org if you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault.