Recovery from Sexual Abuse or Assault
Thriving in Recovery from Sexual Abuse or Assault
Have you had sexual experiences that have left you sad or fearful about sex? You are not alone. We see men, women, and couples who want to reclaim their sex lives. With gentle patience, you can have sexual pleasure again, without worry or shame.
You are certainly not alone. Childhood sexual abuse affects about 25% of women and 18% of men–and the figures may be higher, since they are based on abuse that gets reported, not abuse kept silent. We also see adults who were raped or date raped, exposed to inappropriate sexual material in the home or other places, or even teased about sex in a distressing way.
What can be done?
The first step is to take courage and heart, because this journey is about reclaiming your sexuality for yourself. That means defining what sex means to you, and deciding with whom sex will happen, as well as when, where, how, and why.
If you have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) like being nervous all the time, having flashbacks, or nightmares, then we can teach you ways to relax, all before you even begin to tell your story, if you’d like. That way, you can learn how to make yourself comfortable as you work through your thoughts about past events.
But we won’t stay in the past. We understand that you want to move on. Often our clients who have experienced sexual abuse have been fine for years, but something has triggered a problem, leaving them and a partner confused. Once you are ready, we’ll discuss some techniques for feeling safe during sex, including:
- How you can be both aroused and relaxed
- Managing unwanted thoughts and images
- Understanding and managing your triggers
- Communicating your needs to a partner, verbally and with signals
- Touching exercises that can be reassuring and pleasurable
We have also worked with survivors of date rape and sexual assault. The issues are similar, but different in that the adult self may be able to recover better intellectually and perhaps emotionally, but may still struggle with issues related to their ability to trust a partner and enjoy sex.
Many therapists are qualified to help you with symptoms of PTSD, but are uncertain what to do when you complain that you still aren’t enjoying sex. In fact, the Institute often gets referrals from other therapists who want to help their patients continue on the road to health.
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