Sexual Intimacy After Rape


The hardest relationships to begin or maintain after sexual abuse or rape are the most intimate ones. It can be very difficult to navigate your way back to having sex or re-learning to be a sexual partner. Here’s what you need to know.

Particularly after rape, women and men report feeling numb from the neck down and forgetting how to inhabit their bodies because their sensory awareness becomes muffled.

Trauma leaves an imprint on the mind and body and acts as a vacuum that siphons away desire and pleasure and castrates sexual identity. For real change to occur, the body needs to learn that danger has passed.

Sex and sexuality define our relationships with ourselves, to others, and our environment. Understandably, many survivors are simply not prepared to manage the emotional and physical complexity of intimacy. They question if they deserve sexual gratification, if they will feel safe enough experience physical intimacy, and whether sex always will be connected with pain.

Run & Hide! Danger Has Not Passed

The aftermath of trauma is a juggling act – learning to trust others and yourself, and feeling safe.

The act of telling your story is indeed meaningful, but does not alter the physical and hormonal responses of the body. The traumatized brain and body are confused and do not know if they should defend or relax. Your brain has been rewired to interpret certain situations as potentially life-threatening. This explains why physical contact, touching, embracing, kissing, and sex can trigger intense reactions.

Things You Need To Know About Sex After Rape

A survivor should never feel obligated to spontaneously rebound and recover after something so traumatic. We heal at different speeds, and sexual healing is no different. Here are some things that it may help you to know:

1. You are not sexually broken, simply wounded. All wounds can heal.
2. You might hate penis’/vjjs’ and the men/women attached to them.
3. The first time you are naked with a partner, you may feel an array of emotions, including terror, panic, tearfulness, and may bolt from the room.
4. You might need “safe words” to enforce your boundaries in all intimate situations (e.g., kissing, hugging, touching, massages, dirty talk, sex, etc.).
5. Consensual sex and sexual violence can get blurred during sex. Your body remembers! Be aware that certain sexual acts or positions may trigger and feel like sexual assault.
6. A full army of PTSD symptoms might unexpectedly barge into the room while you are getting your groove on.
7. You might feel waves of shame, anxiety, and fear when your body is aroused.

How to Become Sex-Ready

We all deserve a healthy sex life if we want one.

Sexual violence often exists in secrecy. Telling your story is the first step in reclaiming your sexual self and building a healthy sexual practice that enables you to feel safe in your body and safe experiencing physical pleasure.

1. If you have a partner, it is necessary to work through the sexual trauma together.
2. ‘Rape Talk’ needs to be a part of the courting/dating phase in all of your potentially serious and intimate relationships.
3. Increase sexual awareness — your sexual drive, preferences, or the way you want to be touched, or the way you touch may have changed.

Remember, sexual healing is yours and nobody else’s. A survivor can achieve deep emotional and physical intimacy, but trauma recovery is not linear. You will have good days, bad days, burrowing underneath the cover days, and much-needed chocolate days.