What It’s Like to Have Sex After Sexual Assault

by April 24, 2018
filed under Sex & Dating
Topics ,

*Some names have been changed to conceal identities.

With the Harvey Weinstein scandal, #MeToo, and the seemingly constant string of accusations towards various public figures, the issue of sexual assault seems to be front and center. For some, it’s hard to believe that such a large volume of people have been assaulted. However, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there is an American assaulted approximately every 98 seconds, so it really shouldn’t be such a surprise.

Despite the large volume of people currently coming forward with their experiences of assault and harassment, it’s heartbreaking to think about how many others have continued to be silenced.

Following a sexual assault, sometimes for years, even a mere touch from someone else can trigger horrific flashbacks to the time that an individual was assaulted.

“[Sexual assault] affected my relationships badly,” says Avery from Australia. “I would flinch just at someone touching me – even just by accident or for a hug.”

Sexual assault can result in a person’s sexual desires becoming a burden to them. A person may feel their desires make their assault less valid, or it causes them to fear that those desires are proof that they actually wanted the assault. Some wonder if their aversion to sex when they’re not in the mood simply stems from their emotional wounds, making it difficult to maintain a healthy sexual relationship.

For Mollie, a 27-year-old woman from the San Francisco this is all too real. “I doubt myself – constantly,” she says. “I doubt if I’m reading the situation correctly. I doubt if the man is acting inappropriately when he says or does things that don’t align with my core – or if I’m emotionally reacting, because I’m ‘damaged.’”

Mollie goes on to say that she doubts if she has a right to speak up when she doesn’t like a man’s behavior. She doubts when she wants more sex if that makes her ‘pushy’ or ‘slutty,’ or if she wants less sex if that makes her ‘broken’ or ‘damaged again’. “I doubt when it’s okay to ask for more intimacy, for more affection, for more involvement,” she says.

Not only does sexual assault make it hard to have a healthy sexual relationship, it also makes it difficult to trust future significant others – particularly if it was a significant other from the past that committed assault. Mollie, who lives with schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder, bulimia and OCD, had her conditions used against her when men used the sedative effect of her medication to assault her.

“Some of my rapes happened under the influence of my psychiatric medications. That’s the most overt way it was involved,” she says. “My rapists used the sedative qualities of my medications as a weapon. It was cruel and it was twisted and it made it very difficult to want to take my medications before sleeping next to another man for a long time.”

Lexi, a 30-year-old woman from Canada, recounts her traumatic experience and the effect it had on her romantic life. “The relationship progressed very quickly, and he wanted what every other man I had dated wanted – sex,” she says. “After a couple of bad experiences with men, I was nervous around them and very uncomfortable with sex. He harassed me about it until the point where he finally tired of my answer. He took matters into his own hands.”

“I doubt when it’s okay to ask for more intimacy, for more affection, for more involvement.”

Lexi explains that the man she was dating raped her on more than one occasion, and then threatened to kill her if she didn’t comply. The final time ended in him attempting to strangle her to death. “I was lucky I survived that brutal attack,” she says, “but in the end I was so scared of what happened that I ran. I moved, changed my phone number, sold my car. I haven’t seriously dated a man since.”

For men, assault can have a more unique affect on them. Men can feel as though they won’t be taken seriously, that who they are as men will be diminished because of the assault and sometimes don’t even believe that they can be assaulted simply because they’re a man.

Eric, a 19-year-old from Chicago who was assaulted by a close family friend, shares the way his assault impacted him. “I believe it affected my masculinity and how I see myself as a man for sure.” he says. “Masculinity is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life, and the sexual assaults made it far worse. Men are usually seen as the ones committing sexual assault (to me at least), so no one thinks a male could be sexually assaulted.” He goes on to say that when he told people about his sexual assault, it wasn’t taken as seriously at first, or that people didn’t want to know anything about it.

One out of six women will have experienced attempted or completed rape in their lifetime – and one in 33 men will experience the same. 83% of women with disabilities will be raped in their lifetime. 21% of TGQN (transgender, queergender, nonconforming) students have been sexually assaulted. Native Americans are three times more likely to experience sexual assault in their lifetime than any other race in the United States, with 70% of perpetrators being non-Native.

Looking at these statistics, the dark reality of just how many people have been victims of assault becomes quite clear. We need to listen more to these stories and support victims rather than questioning and judging what they should or shouldn’t have done. After an assault, trauma often intensifies as victims are put on trial as though they themselves are the perpetrator of the crime.

Eric believes awareness is key when helping victims of sexual assault – specifically males.“Beyond that just be with the victims, because I guarantee you that they feel broken, disgusting, ashamed, worthless, cast aside – amongst many other things.” he says.

“I think the blame game needs to stop,” says Gabriella, a 22 year-old from North Vancouver, Canada. “People always have to prove that they were raped, instead of the rapist having to prove that they didn’t rape. It horrifies me that we traumatize and re-traumatize the victim, and many times, there is no conviction. So, legislation needs to join the 21st century. We need to become a welcoming, safe society, rather than judgmental, harsh, questioning one.”

Gabriella continues: “I think this starts within communities, making this the norm. Friends, family, teachers and local police believing the victim and making it okay to talk about. We can start to teach boys what it means to respect girls, rather than just teaching girls not to be ‘slutty.’ Men can become allies by being aware of the struggles women face, and work to help us feel safe, rather than afraid,” she says. “If every community were accepting and didn’t ostracize the victim, imagine the world we would live in.”

Published in the Spring 2018 issue. Get it in digital or print here.


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