Sex and Sexuality

Rape can have a big impact on your feelings about sex and sexuality. It is important to remember that sexual assault is not about lust, attraction or miscommunication. The perpetrator used the rape to be in control and to make you feel powerless.

  • Healing your sexuality is a process that will take time. Any sexual contact or feelings may be a trigger right now. Be patient with yourself.
  • Feeling safe and comfortable is necessary for any healthy sexual activity. If at all possible, do not try to force yourself to be sexual when you do not really want to. If this is not a choice you can make right now, take any opportunity to have some control. Maybe you can avoid certain sex acts that are particularly difficult.
  • Flashbacks to the assault during consensual sex or masturbation are very common. This can be confusing if you are engaging in something that is pleasurable. If you can stop whatever is happening right then, do so.
  • If your body responded with sexual arousal during the assault, you may feel ashamed any time you have sexual feelings. Some survivors begin to fantasize about being out of control during sex or while masturbating to ease the shame, which is not a sign of any desire to be raped again.
  • Many survivors wonder about their sexual orientation, feeling like their sexuality has been so deeply wounded that their sexual orientation has changed. Sexual assault does not determine sexual orientation. However, most survivors do go through a time when they question or explore different ways to feel good about being sexual. This is a normal and healthy part of the healing process.
  • Many survivors find that they become more sexually active, including through masturbation, after the assault. Increasing sexual activity may not be the reaction we expect, but it is normal. However, if the sexual activity is a reaction to trauma, it may not feel like a real choice and may make the feelings of degradation and shame worse.
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual survivors have many of the same feelings as heterosexual people after a rape. Any kind of sex may be a trigger. However, lesbian, gay, and bisexual survivors may have been targeted for a hate crime because of their sexual orientation.

This discrimination can increase self-blame, self-hatred, and fear.

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