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SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS OF SEXUAL ABUSE, MOLESTATION OR RAPE SURVIVORS

Peter who has worked with over 180 sexually abused women and men successfully in the last 18 months. Many say that it is very daunting to work with a man in such a sensitive area, but once they have gone through it, they say "WOW I was abused by a man and now I can get healing from a man. I did not know that was possible!!!! I have completely CHANGED MY LIFE AND AM NOW FINALLY ENJOYING A GOOD HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH A MAN. Even though you may be scared, I highly recommend it" Many say that, you owe it to yourself. Just try, you will be amazed. Check out "Client Success Stories"

Relationships and Sex for Survivors

This is probably one of the most difficult areas for Survivors to overcome. It requires patience, perseverance, lots of self love and acceptance of self. It is highly recommended that the survivor goes for therapy rather than work this thing out for them selves by them selves. Although it can be done and has been done it is a long uphill battle doing it on your own. Working with someone who is qualified makes it much quicker and you should be able to get on with a healthy happy sex life in a relatively short period of time. It is also important to get yourself back into your body – a process that is scary for many. But until you do trying to work through this is extremely difficult if not impossible.

Try to make love while working on incest issues is a rather daunting task for the survivor. They struggle, your partner may get a different impression to the one that you are hoping that they will get. It may lead to misunderstandings, feelings of rejection, not feeling good enough, shame, disappointment etc. Most of these things can be prevented / corrected with correct therapy.

This question is often asked “Have you ever made love while working on incest issues?”
And the answer by the survivor: “Well, I have . . . and I haven’t!”

Our perspective on a sexual partner.
The perspective on sexuality that is presented here applies to both lesbian and heterosexual women. Although there are some differences in the difficulties these groups face, they are far outweighed by the similarities.
We use the word “lover” to describe any sexual partner. This includes someone you are casually dating, someone you are deeply committed or married to, and any relationship in between. Healing takes place on many levels, and whether you are celibate, dating, in a short-term relationship, or in a committed partnership, you can heal sexually.

Survivors are not alone in needing to heal sexually. It is a widespread problem. Our media, culture and life styles leaves little room for any woman to develop a healthy, integrated sexuality about herself. Almost from birth, girls are given mixed messages about their sexuality. They are alternately told to hide it, deny it, repress it, use it, or give it away. It is often used in advertising in a subtle way to get products sold. The media flaunt sex constantly as a means of power, seduction, trade, and exchange. There are many soapies around where the main theme often floats around sex and different partners. “Desperate Housewives” comes to mind as a world wide soapy. As a result, most women grow up with conflicts around sex. So for normal women they struggle. For women who were abused, these problems are compounded all the more.

Survivors face a wide spectrum of sexual difficulties, all of which are natural and reasonable results of being abused. For some women, these problems connect directly to the abuse. If your softball coach pinched your breasts in the locker room after every game, you may not want your lover touching your breasts today. If your father / uncle / stepfather violently raped you, you might experience pain in your vagina today, or you might be scared of intercourse.

Your problems may not be tied to specific abuse. You may feel an overall terror whenever you’re in a sexual situation. You may try to meet all your needs by using sex. Or you may find yourself unable to stay present when you make love. There is nothing crazy about you if you have these problems. Your sexual problems, like the abuse itself, were forced upon you. Fortunately, it is possible to experience your sexuality in a dramatically different way. With the correct help you will be able to completely normalize your sexual life. Please remember that this is not just a switch that you flip and everything will be fine. It is normally a process, but with the correct help, your recovery can be rather quick, deep and meaningful. Once this has been achieved you will be amazed how different life will look and feel for you.

As you allow yourself to remember and open up to repressed feelings, you may find that making love initially is even harder than before. You may question your wisdom in trying to heal, wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to just stick with your old ways of getting by. But you deserve more and will get more as you persevere. You must persevere!

Every Survivor deserves to feel good in intimacy

Experiences of sexual pleasure and intimacy often raise conflicting feelings. It is perfectly natural and normal, as you will be accessing past memories during the act completely unconsciously. You can’t help it. We all work the same way.

Although many survivors experienced only pain or numbness when they were abused, others felt sexual arousal or orgasm. Because these good feelings were entwined with fear, confusion, shame, and betrayal, they grew up feeling that sexual pleasure was bad. It often happens that woman survivors struggle to put the words ‘sex’ and ‘pleasure’ together in one feeling in one event. For many survivors sex is also often seen as work rather than a deep enriching experience.

Some survivors do not feel any pleasurable sensations when they make love – they see it as work or something that must be done. Others have orgasms but feel tremendous guilt about enjoying sex.  And some feel conflict or distress: “Pleasure doesn’t feel like pleasure to me. I want to throw up every time I have an orgasm. I feel disgusted, and all I can think about is (who ever did this to them).” Each time that a survivor is involved in a sexual act the past unresolved memories come up for them. This is normal and this is what needs to be resolved within.

The abuse was a terrible violation that your body’s natural responses were exploited. However, sexual pleasure in itself is not bad, it is good and you deserve to feel good. Feeling good in the act is not connected to your abuse – even though you may feel that it is, IT IS NOT. Now, as an adult, it’s safe to feel good.

You can make choices about where, when, how, and with whom you want to be sexual, and within those choices, you can give yourself permission to feel pleasure. Sexual feelings are not inherently dangerous or destructive. Like fire, their qualities and effects depend very much on who is using them and to what purpose. You can burn or use it constructively. It is your choice!!

Time out for sex

Taking a break from sex is not necessary for every woman, but it can be a clarifying beginning. If you experience fear, disgust, or a lack of desire for sex, or if you have been enable to say no to sex, this is a wonderful opportunity to set your own boundaries and to get to know your body without the pleasure of sex. If you have been sexual in addictive or abusive ways, taking a break from sex offers a chance to examine and change your behaviour. It is up to you to say how long this time of celibacy should last. You may want to take a year or years. Or a month may feel sufficient.

Boundary setting is probably the most important thing that you can learn to do. But in the process of learning to set boundaries many other areas in your life will have to be addressed to enable you to set proper boundaries in place. You may first have to learn about your yourself and where you learned to give away your power and therefore had no boundaries. Once you have established that, you find your own sense of your personal power and want to establish a means to protect that personal power. For more explanation on this I suggest that you visit my other website about boundaries and barriers.

Learn to say no as part of your boundary setting process

Around the age of two, children learn to say no. They practice it all the time. They are asserting themselves, making it clear that although some things are okay with them, not everything is, and they are going to make sure they have some say about it. Toddlers often say no to almost everything. This is healthy. Unless you can say no clearly and effectively, yes is meaningless and cannot give you full satisfaction.

To heal sexually you must learn to say no to unwanted sex. It is important to remember that you have a right and a say in what happens to your body. If you don’t want sex say NO. It is important to make a commitment to yourself, as part of your healing, that you will never again grit your teeth and endure it when you really don’t want sex. Every time you have sex when you genuinely don’t want to, you add another layer of abuse, repeat the pattern of victimization, and thus delay your healing. This just becomes a repeat of the old pattern for you. It does not them really matter if you were in the abused child situation or where you are now – it is the same thing. It is important for you to realize that.

There’s a lot more to life than just sex

Many survivors, during the act of the abuse cut themselves off from feeling what was happening to them. Often survivors want to cut them self of from any kind of exposure to sex. One woman said she not only wanted to say no to sex with lovers, she wanted to say no to sex with herself. She established a hands-off policy that applied even to touching herself. It becomes hard for them to even nurture the body. Many don’t wash often enough, or may not cream there body, or may even just ignore the needs of the body. They often become disassociated fro the body. Many just need a break from any kind of sexual stimulation.

AS part of there conditioning they were given the message during the abuse that survivors were useful only for sex. All your other qualities and skills, your needs and aspirations, your feelings of feeling important were minimized while sex was emphasized. By allowing sex to recede for a time, by saying no to the pressure of it, the problems of it, and even the pleasure of it, you can begin to recognize that there is more to life, and to your worth, than sex. The discovery of self is so important and probably one of the most important and exciting journeys that you can embark on.

If you are in a relationship, an extended period of celibacy can cause a lot of strain. You may need to consider compromises in order to include your lover’s needs. But it is important not to deny your own needs in the process. If you absolutely need more time without sex and you push yourself to begin sex when it’s right for you, it won’t do your relationship much good in the long run and it will certainly not help your healing.

Start with yourself

When you are ready and you want to begin the process of experimenting and experiencing yourself sexually, start slowly and with awareness. This stage is important as you learn what it is that you like and what it is that you don’t like. By doing this it enables you to find out. Many women find that they are their own best lovers over time, in these early stages. As one women said, “If I can’t have sex with myself, there’s no point trying to do it with anybody else.” A good common sense perspective.

If you’ve never been comfortable touching yourself, you’re not alone. Just touching yourself is an act of self acceptance on some level, it is an act of starting to recognize your own body and its needs. This is the first step in self acceptance. Most of us(men and women) have been told that touching ourselves is wrong, dirty, and shameful. Although you are supposed to enjoy it when your lover touches you, you are not supposed to touch yourself. We were not taught as young children that touch is fine but should happen in privacy and not in public.

This attitude is not in your best interests. Who has more right to your body than you? Self touching and nurturing is important.

Many survivors carry disassociation with the body and or disgust for their bodies. Some were told directly that they, their bodies, or their genitals, were disgusting. Some feel that there bodies are dirty and don’t want anything to do with it. One woman hates her right hand because here grandfather forced her to masturbate him with that hand. For others the whole experience of abuse was so dirty and or disgusting that everything connected with it still carries that feeling.

But and this is important to realize that your body is not disgusting. It is a temple for your soul. It is rich and marvelous. And it belongs to you. And you have a right over it and a say over it.

Making love to yourself – a good start

The way you masturbate is very important. It is not work or something that you just do. Many survivors have approached masturbation, like sex, from a disconnected place. One woman explained: “Using my vibrator doesn’t have anything to do with sex or intimacy. It has to do with tension and it’s about release. It doesn’t take that long. If I turn it on high it takes even less time.” This is not making love but trying to find a way of release.

Another woman said she would start out with a good warm feeling, be unable to come to orgasm, and keep frantically masturbating just to have a climax. “It’s as if I become the rapist. I don’t even enjoy it anymore. It’s the angry, compulsive part of myself. I even carry on until I am sore and raw”. This is not nurturing or loving your self. This is self punishment.

If you avoid touching yourself altogether, or if your past experience with masturbation is quick stimulation and release, take some time to be with yourself in a relaxed, attentive way. Run a hot bath, light candles, listen to Nina Simone or what ever music is relaxing for you. Put clean sheets on the bed, light incense, place fresh flowers in your bedroom, take your time. Maybe you’d like to smooth oil or lotion on your body. Feel your skin, your muscles. Don’t start out by touching yourself genitally. Begin by holding hands with yourself. Stroke your arm, then your other arm. Touch your legs and abdomen. See what kind of touch feels good to you, what you like. Many women have gone through sex, in a rush, numb or in a panic, never taking time to notice how touch actually feels. Maybe on the first date with yourself you’ll only touch one shoulder. That’s fine. There’s no rush. Make another date. Touch the other shoulder. And so on.

Over time you can allow yourself more and more feelings, more sensation. Perhaps you will feel sexual arousal, perhaps not. Whatever you feel is fine. When you’re ready, but not too quickly, you can touch your breasts, your vulva, your clitoris, your vagina. The object here is not to do it fast and be done. The object is not orgasm. It’s to feel your feelings, to give yourself pleasure, to know and find out more of your body. Stop any time you want to. Notice when you want to stop, what makes you uncomfortable. Stay aware. Stay in your body. Your body is a marvelous machine. It is the only thing that you have that is able to give you feed back about your feelings. It is not possible to get anything out there that will do the same for you. This is the one thing that you have that nobody else has that can do this for you. It is your body and it can only give you feed back on feelings to you – no one else. Understand this please.

If you find yourself spacing out-thinking about what you’re going to wear tomorrow, splitting from your body-stop. Slow down, back up, breathe yourself slowly deeply back into your body.  Do whatever it takes to reconnect with your self. Sex is about connection-in this case, your connection with yourself. Your connection with your body.

Flashbacks

If you have flashbacks to the original abuse while touching yourself, don’t panic. It often happens.  Flashbacks can be an opportunity to understand your experience as a child and can yield valuable information and insight. They can give you a chance to see, understand and release long-held feelings. These are blessings being bestowed on you. Be grateful that you are able to do this – it is part of your letting go and your learning.

If you get too upset, open your eyes and ground yourself in the present. Be in the body. Tell yourself that touching yourself here and now is not abuse even though it may bring back memories of abuse. Tell yourself that touching yourself in a loving way is your right, that you deserve touch, you deserve pleasure. It is neither harmful nor shameful nor wrong. It is your right. This is fine. This is healing. And you deserve it. You are entitled to it.

Orgasms

For  women who have difficulty having orgasms, it can be helpful to take some time deliberately avoiding orgasms when you make love to yourself. For a week or two you might decide to masturbate as often as you want, but rather than having orgasms (or trying to), allow the sexual energy to build and then contain it, holding it in you body. If you get close to an orgasm, back of a little, lessen the stimulation, let the energy subside. In this kind of lovemaking there’s no prescribed time to end. You stop when you want to. You let it go to full orgasm when you want to. Enjoy the journey, it is not a destination that you must have.

Touching yourself without striving for an orgasm can be a tremendous relief. There’s no longer any pressure to “achieve” orgasm. There’s nothing to strive for, nowhere to rush to, no “trying.” Instead, there’s a spaciousness to experience pleasure, to endure pleasure, and to get to know your own responses as they are, rather than as you think they should be. This kind of exploration can clear some of the obstacles to experiencing orgasms. It can also be very exciting. (This is effective with a partner too. In that case, neither of you has an orgasm. This process can very healing for you.)

Because you abuse may have affected you in a different way this may be what you may experience. While the point of this exercise is to take the pressure off, you may instead feel it’s putting pressure on. One woman had a hard time not having an orgasm, because having an orgasm as a child signaled the end of that particular episode of abuse. “For me, sex without an orgasm is incredibly threatening because the sex becomes endless. I panic when there’s no clear end in sight.” So you can see that there are as many variables as there are woman in this learning experience.

If you’ve never had an orgasm, there are some excellent suggestions for becoming orgasmic in books on sex. If you’ve never tried a vibrator, we suggest you get your hands on one. Please always remember that you should take it easy and slowly at your own pace. It is not a race. It is a journey of self discovery – enjoy it.

Many say that their orgasms change as they worked out their sexual abuse issues. Old blockages were loosened and stored emotions were released, allowing room for a fuller body experience. One woman found that doing emotional release work changed her orgasms from tight pinpointed bursts to a much more powerful whole-body sensation. Each one is different. Your journey may mean something completely different for you. There is no right or wrong.

Making love with a partner

How long you explore your sexuality alone is up to you. No one can tell you how much time you need. Listen to your body and your feelings to know if you feel ready or pushed. If you have a lover and have taken a break from sex, it is essential that you don’t start again solely because you feel pressured, want to avoid conflict, or are afraid your lover will leave you. Making love for the wrong reasons will backfire on both you and your relationship.

What’s your motivation?

Be honest with yourself about your reasons for wanting to work on sexuality at this time. You might make a list of the things you want to change about your sexuality. Then make a list of the reasons you’re willing to do so. In one column list the reasons you want to change for yourself, and in another, the reasons you want to change for your lover’s sake.

Although it’s often hard for survivors to separate their own needs and desires from those of others, it’s essential that you have your own reasons for beginning to make love. Such reasons might be: “I feel that I’m missing out on an important part of life,” “I want to feel pleasure,” “I don’t want my past to rule me,” “I want to experience an intimate sexual relationship.”

Lasting changes are made only when we have a deep desire to change within ourselves. At first you may be motivated by your acute awareness of your lover’s impatience or your feat of losing the relationship, but eventually you must come to see sexual healing as something you’re doing for yourself. If you force yourself to be sexual before you’re actually ready, it’s like you’ll experience struggle and disappointment, but little growth.

If it becomes clear that you’re not ready to tackle your sexuality, and you’re doing it solely because of the outside pressure, then this isn’t the right time for you to focus on sexual healing. As a child you engaged in sex because someone else wanted you to. It is essential that you break this pattern. Sex is for you first, and there is no sense forcing yourself through a deep and painful process of change if you don’t want it for yourself. It’s okay if you’re not ready yet. Someday you will be. Focus on other aspects of your healing now. There is more to life than sex.

What is sex, anyway?

Making love while healing from child sexual abuse will probably not fit the description in a popular romance novel: You fall into your lover’s arms, your clothes magically drop away, you have no need to talk about fears or discomforts, and you come together in a bust of spontaneous passion.

Before you start sharing sex with a partner, it’s important to reconceive lovemaking. Too often sex is seen as a series of events that take place in a prescribed order. Survivors often go through the motions either not feeling at all, not liking what they do feel, or absolutely panic-stricken. You (and your lover) must give up the idea that sex is a series of events: first you kiss, then you touch, then you get genital, then you have orgasms, then you go to sleep. Instead, try looking at sex as an experience in loving, loving both yourself and another person-sex as an experience of honesty, pleasure, and intimacy. It starts, it changes, eventually it’s over. But other than that, anything can happen.

Some need violence to be linked to sex to feel like having sex

For many women this is the case. A normal sexual relationship is just so boring. Those that were abused in violent circumstances, the connection between sex and violence is strong. It is something that they think is necessary before “satisfying” sex can be attained.

Where this is the case this pattern needs to be looked at and changed, this is not conducive to creating healthy sexual relationships. If you are in a relationship where violence and sex are linked, you need to realise that this is dysfunctional and you would need to look at the relationship anew, it is essential that break the connection between the two. Or you may need to leave the relationship altogether. If the combination of sex and violence is exciting to you, it will require systematic work to change your orientation.

When we want to act out Abuse and fantasies

Many survivors can feel sexual arousal or have orgasms only if sex incorporates some aspect of abuse. It is like no orgasm or satisfaction can happen without some form of abuse is made part of the scene/act. One woman could climax only if she imagined her father’s face. Another only if she imagined being bound or raped. Another only if she was stimulated in the way her neighbour stimulated her as a child. Another only if she fantasized being the abuser herself. Such are the many issues that arise within in the survivor. All of these are normal in some way or another within the survivor. Each of these needs to be addressed and worked through. Many masturbate while reading incest literature.

Many women hide these feelings away from those close to them. They even hide them from there therapist feeling ashamed to admit they have such feelings or fantasies. They fear that there is something wrong with them. This is not the case and it is important to talk about these feelings and fantasies, with a good therapist – this is the only way to resolve them as you need to know where they come from and how to process them.

If abuse and sadism turn you on, you aren’t to blame. This is just the way that you think that this is how it is done. It does not mean that it is right, it means that you need to look at it and resolve it within yourself. You did not create these fantasies out of nothing. They were forced on you just as intrusively as those hands, penises, and leers were forced on you during the original abuse.

The context in which we first experience sex affects all of us deeply. It is not unique to survivors. Often there is a kind of imprinting in which whatever is going on at the time becomes woven together. So if you experienced violation, humiliation, and fear at the same time as you experienced arousal and pleasurable genital feelings, these elements get twisted together, leaving you with emotional and physical legacies that link pleasure with pain, love with humiliation, desire with an imbalance of power. Shame, secrecy, danger, and the forbidden feel thrilling. All of these need to be looked at and resolved. It is a big task but it can be done.

Sado-Masochistic
Some try sex using power and domination over the other. This is not what sex is about. Sex is about mutual sharing, caring, support, loving enhancing encounter. Some women have acted out the power and domination linkages in sado-masochistic (SM) scenarios, claiming the right to feel sexual excitement and release by whatever means works. Advocates of SM argue that in mutually consensual SM, one can experiment with power. But for women who are working to heal beyond their conditioning to abuse, participating in SM – sex that involves pain, humiliation, or a situation in which one person wields power over the other – makes no sense. It is not natural or enhancing to the parties involved. It is destructive. It would be like an alcoholic trying to heal from alcoholism by drinking only in special environments created for that purpose.

Releasing yourself from sexual abuse post your sexual abuse

You can release yourself from the linkage of pain, humiliation, and sexual excitement. It is possible to change your conditioning, to disconnect those associations, to create an authentic, truly chosen sexuality that embodies passion and excitement, rather than through a process of destruction.

  • Make the commitment that you want to change. Saying “I don’t want to do this anymore” is a powerful beginning. 
  • Back up your commitment with action. Stop engaging in sex that is abusive in any way.
  • Start with yourself. Learn what it means to love yourself. Work with your self and resolve all fantasies and forms of abuse. Once you have done that you are well on your way.  
  • Practice staying present in the moment and in your body. Allow yourself to actually feel your feelings without using fantasies to take you somewhere else. Remember, there is no goal.
  • Talk honestly about your experience. Even though it’s difficult to talk about these things, it is essential to do so if you are to overcome your shame and move on. Talk to your therapist, a trusted friend, and your lover. 

Bring fun and laughter into your life – it is essential

The healing process can and does often feel like an endless road of yet more to face and resolve. Sometimes as you work to change sexually, the process seems grim and endless. You get dis-heartened and often want to give up. Don’t.  You may feel fed up with “trying to do it.” All the time. Words like “spontaneity” and “enjoyment” have no meaning and are often totally foreign concepts. Having someone to bring in humour or you can uncover some humour for your self about your self helps a great deal. It enlightens up the place!!! This is when it helps us all.

Putting making love in a straight jacket is not so much fun. Sometimes we take on this task that sex must be approached by a real hardworking approach to making love, so sincere and serious and lacking in spontaneity. We focus in a very narrow way. We don’t laugh. We don’t tickle. We don’t play. It’s very cut-and-dried. We lose the plot completely. That is when it can become terribly boring and frustrating. It has to be fun, enjoyment and loving – it is not supposed to be hard work. What we’re trying to do now is consciously lessen that, to be more playful in bed, to just have fun.

 

The journey of sexual healing takes time – accept that.

You have had a long period of abuse in your life. Whether the abuse was actually short or long does not matter. The effect of it was long. Sexual healing takes a period of time to heal, but gradually it does happen. What you experience sexually today is not what you’ll experience a year or two years from now. What seems like a terrible problem now may be just a minor annoyance later on. Or sex may get easier for a time, and then hard again, when you hit a deeper layer. This is just a part of the journey for you. Don’t fight it, just go with it.

Sex also has a lot to do with the level of intimacy in your relationship, the dynamics in the relationship, even the particular kind of lover you have.

Your experience of sex can change within a single relationship as well. With a new lover, there’s often a passionate rush that obscures problems. But as the relationship settles, sexual issues may need attention again. As you risk more emotional intimacy, you may start to shut down sexually. Or you may find that as your trust grows and deepens, you feel on a deep body level, surpassing even your own expectations. Enjoy it and go with the flow. This is how it is supposed to be.

Because it takes a long time to heal sexually, you may wonder whether you’re making progress. But even though the process has ups and downs, you are headed in the right direction. If you are putting steady, consistent effort into developing a fulfilling sexuality, have patience, accept where you are, and trust your capacity to heal.

Although sex was used against you in bitter ways, you can reclaim your sexuality and shape it to reflect your own deepest values.

Sex can be a powerful surge toward creation, like writing a song or choreographing a dance. All of these require absolute attention and presence; all have that great intensity; all bring something new into existence. If you choose to share that opening with a lover, it’s a risk, a thrill, and a deep affirmation of trust. You affirm vitality, joy, connection. Your passion becomes a passion for life.

Even without a lover, reclaiming your sexuality is worth it. I have never encountered someone who has resolved the sexual abuse encounter, saying that the journey was not worth it. When they arrive they often say that every survivor should experience this. If they can so can you.

When are you going to free you??