Sex and the Survivor; they can co-exist
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words rape, molestation or sexual assault? What picture comes to mind, what feelings does that spur? Considering that I was only five years old the first time I was molested, I do not know what a person who never has had that experience thinks of when they hear those words. I only know what reactions I have encountered when I tell them that I am a survivor of being sexually assaulted as a child and an adult.
Often times it’s a mixed pot of reactions from those who look at me in shock because as they would tell me, “I would have never of guessed.,” to those that obviously have a hard time discussing the issue for whatever reason.
I have had men wonder aloud if because of my past assaults if I am now “frigid.” There have even been people who really wanted to know if victims do turn into “sluts” after having “THAT” happen to them.
My answer to people has been what I would tell them had it been any other crime; it depends on the victim - who they are - what support system they have, treatment they have received, and their desire to heal and grow from the experience.
What I have noticed that once you tell people, somehow the topic always ends back on sex, and not what the crime really centered around; power and control.
For me, personally, I was one of those people who turned inward. I didn’t lash out. I didn’t seek attention, but rather I went into myself and vowed never to be used like that again. When again happened against my will, further I withdrew into myself.
By the age of fourteen I had been sexually assaulted many times, and by many different men. The one causing the most damage coming from a male relative (by marriage) when I was only 9 years old. The reason this one has caused me more pain than the others is because I can’t remember all of it. I remember being awakened by a sharp pain between my legs, and him sitting next to the couch I was sleeping on. I remember a thunderstorm outside, the smell of wet leather from his boots sitting not too far from where I slept, and the wrenching smell of alcohol.
I remember when I went to scream, his hand went over my mouth and he climbed on top of me. He said, “If you tell anyone they won’t believe you and I will kill your family.” From that point on, all I remember are the smells and sounds that filled the air; and nothing else.
That failure to remember if anything happened after those threats were issued caused me a lot of grief in my teen and early adult years. The reason for this is while I told everyone I was a “virgin” I never really knew for sure if physically I was; emotionally, and spiritually I was…..but clinically I’ll probably never know. For a child who was always told to be a “good girl” I never knew if I was lying or not about being a virgin….and quite frankly I do not think I wanted to know, the truth may have been to much for my young mind, and that’s most likely why I’ve blocked that last part out.
The other men who assaulted me when I was a child always stopped short of full fledged intercourse, and I have full memories of each and every occurrence.
I kept my claim of being a “virgin” as a sacred part of me while I was a teen and into my young adult years. I was a very curious child, and often would seek out, on my own, information for survivors. I say on my own because my experience, my assaults, were not allowed to be discussed openly, and even privately. This was a firm order from my mother when I did finally tell her about them all when I was fourteen.
So while I didn’t have a support system, I did have an active curious mind and I believe that is what got me through some of the hardest years; the teen years.
I wasn’t scared of sex, but rather wanted to reclaim it back as being something special, a gift to give someone special I loved. An expression of me at my most vulnerable state; totally exposed.
That is exactly what I did. I waited to willingly give that part of myself until I was in love. In love with the man that I would eventually marry.
Once I allowed that part of me out, I realized..WOW…sex can be fun! That took me by surprise. I thought I should be fearful of it, not enjoy it. I even at some point felt guilty and shameful for liking it, enjoying it, when in my past it caused me so much grief, and heartache.
Conflicted to say the least, and sent me back to the books…and back to counselor to figure it all out. Having to finally have a say about my body physically, what I wanted to do with it, and with whom, was overpowering and overwhelming.
What I have learned since that time is, yes, it’s ok to enjoy the act of sex. We are sexual beings. It’s ok to want to experiment with it, as long as it’s your freewill and whomever you are with. As survivors we need to remember that assault was not about sex as much as it was about power and control. When you take back your sex life, you’re taking back your power and control. It’s your free will and as long as you know you are not doing it to find “love”, to “please” another, or to “just get it over with” then you can also find that being a survivor and having sex can co-exist.
Again, now I speak only from my experience. Had I not sought out those answers when I was younger, then I do not believe I would be able to survive what happened with my ex-husband only a few years ago when while we were separated, he sexually assaulted me. I walked away from that attack knowing it was about power and control. Knowing that he chose a weapon he felt would disarm me considering he knew my past. Thankfully for those steps I walked…being chewed and spat out that along the way I learned the lessons I needed to survive.
It’s in all of us, the tools we need. As survivors we need to take back our control …our power….our freewill. Also as survivors we need to realize that the act of sex can and should be a loving aspect in our lives, and relationships. You can and should enjoy it with a partner you trust.
Links for survivors and partners:
Recovering from Rape; Healing your sexuality
Regaining your sexuality after rape
A Self Help Book:
The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have a Great Sex Life Even If You've Been Sexually Abused