Recently with the news of the Harvey Weinstein scandal many folks in Hollywood and around the globe have felt empowered to share their story of how sexual harassment and/or assault has impacted their lives. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) estimates that nearly one in ten LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) has experienced sexual assault from those partners. Studies suggest that around half of transgender people and bisexual women will experience sexual trauma at some point in their lifetimes.
Yet, as a community, there is a quiet yet giant elephant in the room when we talk about how sexual trauma affects us or what our community’s unique needs are when it comes to preventing sexual trauma and supporting and caring for survivors of sexual trauma. How do we reclaim our sexuality after sexual assault? I am a survivor of sexual trauma at a very early age and also later in my teenage years, but ten years later little did I know the impact it would have on me and my sexuality.
Growing up in a Christian household I knew I was different and had an attraction to the same sex. I remember having fan crushes on professional wrestlers at age 6, but the belief system my family held told me that everything I felt was wrong and that it was an abomination to “God”. When I first experienced sexual trauma around age 12 my parents were having bible study in one room, and in the next room over I was being pressured into doing sexual activities but at the end of those activities I would orgasm which left me confused. That continued weekly almost 2 years and every time I left that house I felt guilty, ashamed, and were afraid my parents were going to disown me for having same sex “activities”. So, I hid that trauma and tried to mask what was happening by just trying to fit in societies box and trying to be as “straight’ as possible. Yet inside I was lost in who was I and figuring out what I was supposed to be attracted to.
Eventually, after many years I told my parents what happened and I was forced into Christian “counseling” which continued to take away my voice and power around my sexuality. This “Christian” counselor told me that the only reason I felt attracted to the same sex is because of my sexual trauma, which offered me no healing or processing of what I was feeling and why I couldn’t shake of my sexual desires. Years later after coming out and navigating my sexual identity, this trauma would haunt my sex life. Even though I was a go-go dancer and a sex worker anytime I was with a partner regardless of how horny I was, regardless if it was a one night stand, client, or longtime lover any sort of touch became a trigger and I would experience physical pain that would instantly turn me off. This pain and feeling of not being able to exist in my body would eventually cause insecurity in my sexuality, relationships, and my identity. There were times where I felt I didn’t deserve pleasure and felt guilty for not being able to feel anything positive during physical intimacy.
For years I was a strict top because I felt I had control when I was penetrating my partners. Yet, I would come across partners who would want to top me and as soon as they tried to penetrate me I would become triggered and feel immense pain and guilt cause there was this overwhelming desire to try to please my partner(s). I thought “Maybe I’m just a bad bottom” or “Maybe I should just stick to porn and jacking off.” It wasn’t until I opened up with my therapist who also identified as a queer survivor with my triggers and sexual baggage that I found the beginning of my journey to trust my body and the sensations it feels.
One of the things I’ve utilized before engaging in sex is smoking marijuana, I know that can be taboo for some but for me it helps calm my anxiety and also be able to relax when I am in sexual encounters. To even be really transparent the first time I was able to experience pleasure as a bottom was early 2017 and it was after smoking with a fuck buddy off a dating app. Seeing what my body was capable of and experience in a different way opened up my sexuality to something empowering which felt like a temporary victory. I was able to fall in love with my body in ways that eventually carried over to loving my body in my day to day life too. However, there were times after that when I still had issues letting my body fully relax during sex which left me feeling guilty, and unable to communicate why to my partner(s) because I don’t want them to treat me as something fragile.
The first thing I had to remind myself is that there is no normal way to heal, and that you have to give yourself grace to navigate what healing looks like for you. Sexual trauma thrives in silent closets. Sexual trauma is also something that is a daily process to overcome. I also continually remind myself that with one partner having sex might be comfortable, but there will be some days where sex will not be as comfortable but that it doesn’t mean every time will be hard.
So to anyone reading this I want to leave you with 10 thoughts for healing;
Learn how to be patient with yourself. Start out slow, you know your body better than anyone else. Healing is taking back power that was taken away from you, and that can come at your own time, and in your own way.
It’s really okay to say no. Consent and Communication is sexy and so are those who respect that.
No two experiences are the same, but you are not alone regardless of your gender, race, or sexual orientation. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you weren’t hurt or traumatized.
There will never be a fix for the trauma, but there will be a way to overcome it and take back ownership of it.
I want you to know that even if you are married, even if you are in a(n) open, closed, duck-duck goose relationship, even if you were having sex all the fucking time before your assault, even if anything, you don’t owe anyone sex.
Masturbate, Masturbate, Masturbate! There is something so powerful in navigating your own body to reclaim what is yours and to find what feels good again. Don’t feel afraid to unapologetically explore your sexuality, there will be things that you never thought you would enjoy once you reclaim your pleasure. One of my favorite spots is a local adult store that I try new toys all the time.
There are partners who are patient and kind. Some partners will listen and support you and they will read and research and seek to understand. They will ask you what you like and what you don’t like, they will be explicit about their concerns, and they will treat you with respect and dignity.
It’s okay to never have sex again. Your sexual practices are yours to own and nobody can ever take that away from you.
You’re beautiful, You’re loved, and it’s not your fault.