As a psychologist, I work with adult survivors of child sexual abuse. It is a topic that is difficult to talk about, but one that exists in every community, including our own community. Whereas the treatment for these adults is individualized, unique, and an essential part of healing, there are some important messages that everyone can internalize.
One universal message is that sex is not how you first learned it. It’s what you make it.
I often tell my clients that emotionally they are virgins, because what they experienced was abuse. Like other newcomers to sex, they can learn to develop a fulfilling sexual relationship. In a loving relationship, sex can be wonderful; it is supportive, mutual, and feels good to both. Even people that are not per se survivors of “abuse”, but have negative associations, can gain from this perspective of themselves being the determiners of their sexual experience. Sex is what you, and your partner, make it to be.
With a trained psychologist, someone who has experienced abuse in the past has the opportunity to process their trauma so that it doesn’t haunt them and affect their present lives. They can learn tools of how to calm themselves when afraid, how to be present in their relationship instead of jumping to the past. They can overcome their aversions to touch, and learn to be open to warm, positive, loving touch. These tools of relaxation, mindfulness and easing into a physical relationship are ones that all couples, not matter what they have sexually experienced, can gain from. To learn more about them speak to a therapist such as myself who is well trained in this area. [Read more…]