Almost half a million Americans report that they have been a victim of sexual assault. Thousands more that do not report the assaults. Many people may be are walking through life with a history of trauma.
For those survivors that seek professional help or social support, they get assistance in learning coping mechanisms that help them navigate life. However, one of the most avoided areas is re-engaging in healthy sexual activity after sexual assault.
While the topic may come up tangentially, most report getting basic advice like “be more intimate than sexual,” “take it slow” or “let it happen naturally.”
These are great platitudes, but as a sexual wellness educator, I know all too well that this advice is incomplete. It takes someone well versed in sex therapy, sex coaching or sex education to help guide the survivor through the stages of pleasure post trauma.
I am unable to go through all the stages in depth, however, here are a few high-level steps to consider:
- Sexual self-reflection – it is imperative for survivors to turn inwards to identify and define what health sexuality truly looks like for them. Peeling away the layers of societal miseducation in addition to the trauma of the assault will lay the foundation for a satisfying sexual wellness journey post trauma.
- Recognizing trauma – triggers that agitate past trauma are inevitable. However, knowing what they are and sharing them with a lover, when safe, will foster intimacy and relieve some of the burdensome responsibility of keeping them to yourself.
- Setting Boundaries – with close partners, discussing things that are off limits and why may be a healthy discussion that will lead to caring support. It may also avoid inadvertent re-traumatization and should be well-received by any truly considerate partner.
These thoughtful connections are the tip of the iceberg of such a necessary yet often missed subject in health education and health promotion.
Pleasure post trauma is a multi-faceted and individualized set of considerations that can help a survivor claim, or reclaim, a healthy, positive sense of sexuality. Exploring these concepts with a certified or licensed sexuality professional can unlock great possibilities that many perceive as unattainable.
Davondra Brown, M.Ed., MCHES®, SOPHE Practicing Member