Sexual Trauma: Finding Hope in the Darkness
Sex is one of the most intimate experiences we have in our lifetime. It can be wonderful and fulfilling; it can be scary and painful, or it can even be both. Our sexual identity begins at birth and forms through both healthy and unhealthy experiences. Our beliefs about sex develop as we grow and are molded by how sexuality is discussed and modeled by caregivers, friends, family and society. It is influenced by television, the internet, culture and language. At times the actions we are exposed to can occur without our consent. Our experiences over time significantly shape our sexuality, how we feel about sex and intimacy and ultimately how we share ourselves physically in our significant relationships. Sexual trauma can have one of the biggest influences on our sexual identity.
Those who have suffered any type of sexual trauma often struggle with externalizing the trauma. Instead, they turn their negative thoughts towards themselves, affecting both their self-esteem and ability to feel worthy and connected in their relationships. Research has shown that sexual abuse is associated with higher instances of depression, anxiety and relationship problems, along with numerous other issues. Therapy can help individuals cope with and overcome these symptoms. In addition, almost anyone can benefit from exploring how their ideas about sex and past experiences affect their current level of intimacy. If you or someone you love are experiencing confusing feelings about sex and intimacy or struggling with overcoming sexual trauma, here are some ways therapy can help.
How therapy can help you improve sex and intimacy:
Untangle your past.
We learn how to talk and feel about sex from the people around us – our parents, classmates, friends, partners and unfortunately, far too often – abusers. Seeking therapy to heal from sexual trauma can be scary and difficult. However, understanding why you feel the way you do about sex and intimacy can help you process and transform negative thoughts into more helpful thoughts and beliefs.
Learn to communicate about sex directly.
For some people, the idea of even talking about sex can feel cringe-worthy. Exploring why it feels scary can help people overcome their fears and be more assertive about sex. It can also help to have your thoughts and feelings validated. When we feel like our fears and desires are valid we often feel more comfortable talking about them and asking for support when needed.
Identify how your experiences effect your present.
Many people may not even realize how their past impacts their relationships. Traumatic experiences like inappropriate touching by another, exposure to pornography or sex at an early age, consensual or not, can have long lasting effects. Often, men and women are impacted differently by these experiences throughout their lives. For some, they don’t even realize what happened to them was abuse. Through therapy they can learn gain a greater understanding about their relationship to sex and intimacy. From that process they can learn to heal and start enjoying sex and intimacy.
Opening up the history of our lives in a safe place like therapy, group work and/or reading and self exploration with a therapist can feel scary. Despite that, the benefits of therapy are tremendous. Therapy can help you view and approach sex in a way you may have never experienced before. This can help lead to a healthier emotional connection and physical connection with yourself and your partner.
Our relationship experts understand that sexual identities and self-worth as we relate it to our sexual experiences are very personal. We believe no one should have to go through life feeling sexually damaged and unsatisifed. Everyone deserves and can achieve a healthy sexual identity and relationship. We would be honored to help you overcome your trauma and support you in experiencing intimacy and sexual satisfaction in a new way. If you’re ready to schedule your appointment now, we’re ready to help you start your healing journey.