Sexual trauma can be a variety of things. Sexual trauma can occur when you are coerced into sexual relations with someone you know. Sexual trauma can be molestation from a family member at a young age. Sexual trauma can be when a stranger rapes you. Sexual trauma could be when you are fighting with your husband and he wants to have sex and you say no, but he forces you anyway. Sexual trauma can happen to men, women, transgender people and children. Unfortunately, sexual trauma can happen to anyone. Every 98 seconds another sexual assault occurs. One in six women has been a victim on an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. The degree of this issue is huge. This is an absolutely disgusting statistic. With so many women being impacted by sexual assault and trauma, I believe it is important for women who have lived through it to start speaking up to help other people impacted and to help those supporting people who have been impacted.
We Are Afraid
Initially, the fear comes from being shaken up, assaulted and feeling disconnected from what just happened. You are in shock. The fear in your mind is “what happens next” and “how do I move from where I am”. The fear comes from not knowing if the person will become angry or if they are going to act like nothing egregious just happened. Either way, you’re afraid. You’re wondering why and how you’ll ever have normalcy after this.
After your initial fear dissipates, fear for your health kicks in.
“Could I have something?”
“Do I need to go to planned parenthood?”
“I need to call my cousin because I am not old enough for Plan B”
“He said he was using a condom, but he didn’t”
“My parents will kill me if I get pregnant”
“What am I going to tell my boyfriend? He is going to think I cheated”
Fear of it happening again is always in the back of our minds. Could it happen with a new boyfriend? Could it happen when I am walking down the street with my dog? Would it happen at work with my new boss? Would it happen once the guy gets out of prison? Will he find me? We worry that we will never have normal relationships with people again. We worry that everyone is out to get us. Nobody can be trusted. People only want sex.
We Are Ashamed
Even when your parents, friends, police officers, therapists, doctors, judges, everyone tells you that it isn’t your fault..We still feel like it is. Somehow, we must have contributed to it. Or on the other hand, your circle may be supporting the idea that it was your fault and that only makes you feel more ashamed and guilty.
We didn’t fight back. Shame Thinking: He didn’t know I didn’t want it.
We just laid there. Shame Thinking: I let it happen.
We initially said yes but changed our minds. Shame Thinking: Maybe that was confusing to him.
We went on a date with him and talked about sex beforehand. Shame Thinking: He did deserve sex because I told him I would
We did other stuff besides sex. Shame Thinking: How was he supposed to control himself?
Sexual trauma makes you feel dirty. Sexual trauma makes you feel like taking 1,000 showers to wash the sweat and semen off but nothing makes it better. You can still smell him years later. You remember the way he tastes and it turns your stomach. We are ashamed because we feel like if we had been somewhere else or said something different, this wouldn’t have happened. We, as women, take the blame. But we shouldn’t.
We Think About It Often
Do I think about the guy I brought home from the bar that one time? No, never. Do I think about the guy who gave me no other choice but to let him touch me multiple times and force me to send him naked pictures of myself when I was in middle school? Yes. All the time. I’d say, almost everyday. Read my MeToo story here
I think about my sexual trauma often. Not just the time when I was 13. But the time when I was 18 and a guy and I were in my basement and I told him to get his hands out of my pants. He wouldn’t. He stuck 2 fingers inside me and asked if I liked it. I started screaming at him to get off of me. He smelled like wine. Anytime I smell red wine, I think of his sunken in face and creepy smile. I think of the words he said “Do you like that?” How could I like something when I am scraping my finger nails against your hand trying to get them out of me. Should I be ashamed because we did stuff before that happened? I didn’t want it in that moment so he should have gotten the hell off of me.
I think about the sexual trauma I’ve had within a relationship, often. I think about when we fought and made up, but I was still kinda mad. I had sex with him anyway. In the midst of sex I wanted to stop because I was still upset about the fight. He looked at me, in my eyes, and said “I’m going to finish anyway”. And he did. It is excruciating to look up at someone you love, while they are trusting themselves in and out of you, knowing that you told them to stop, and they didn’t. It is traumatizing to know your feelings and dignity mean nothing and their sexual gratification means everything.
We Think About It During Sex
We try not to. We try to focus on you, our new partner. But it creeps up. It creeps up and we see his face instead of yours. I go back to how I felt when I was 13. I was confused by the event, confused on how to feel, I didn’t know if I was supposed to be horrified or want to be close to this person. I was too young to consent to anything and that has messed me up for a long time. When my new partner gets out of bed, I think “Is he coming back to cuddle or was this just sexual gratification for him?”
When someone puts their hand on my hand when I am giving oral, I am right back to where I was when I was 13 and being forced to suck his disgusting dirty dick. Just a hand on the head, that is all it takes to send someone back to their trauma. Even consensual experiences can start to feel non consensual because in your head, you are back where you were in your trauma. You can’t stop thinking about it.
“Babe, are you okay, did I do something wrong?” – him
“No. I just.. I don’t know, I’m fine. Let’s just keep going” – me
We Worry For Our Children
One in five girls is a victim of child sexual abuse and most of those assaults occurred by someone they knew. This is why we worry that our children will become victims to the same predators we faced. One of my biggest fears is that my daughter will be a victim of molestation by someone close to me or someone at her school. I am nosey and try to get to know everyone that she spends time with. I know I can’t control every aspect of her life but I try to ensure she isn’t around people who make my gut check go off. The only thing is, my gut goes off when it shouldn’t because I have PTSD. I am hypervigilant.
“How long have you worked here?”
“What made you choose teaching?”
“Who will be in her class when I pick her up?”
“What kind of background checks do you run? Just state or federal too?”
Not every sexual assault is the same, not every person deals with it the same. Not everyone will experience everything on the list above. I can almost guarantee you that a survivor has experienced one of these or worse. Sexual trauma has long lasting effects but it will get better. Seek professional services (therapy, counseling, support groups). Take time for yourself to heal and focus on feeling better. It is OK not to be OK right now. It gets easier.
Resources to Help: