Recovering from sexual trauma is a long, painful road. There are many things that one must regain and work on before you can feel “like yourself” again. This recovery process can take an extended amount of time and often spans a period of several years. Many people go without proper psychotherapy in order to address issues caused by this trauma and subsequently never truly experience the opportunity to heal and recover. Often times, this negatively affects future romantic relationships and makes it difficult to have intimacy with your partner.
In order to be in a healthy romantic relationship while recovering from trauma, it is imperative to remain self-aware, to communicate, and to have a good support system in place. Sometimes people with histories of sexual trauma are not even aware of the fact that they are still affected by their experience until they become involved romantically and certain triggers occur. Because of this, it is important to remain self-aware when you are being intimate with your romantic partner. If at any point you begin to feel uncomfortable or fearful it is absolutely essential that you stop right away and communicate this to your partner. Continuing to do whatever was causing your discomfort could in essence re-traumatize you to a certain extent.
It is also necessary to communicate with your partner during the healing process so that they are aware of what is going on and if there is anything that they can do to help you. For instance, if someone coming up behind you causes you to become extremely fearful, please inform your partner of this so that they can avoid the behavior. This brings me to the point of triggers. A lot of the time when traumatic experiences have occurred, people experience “triggers” that cause them to feel as if they are back at the moment of the trauma. It is important to be aware of what triggers you may have and to communicate these with your partner. Often times, triggers do not seem apparent, that is why it is important to see a psychotherapist so that together you can analyze panic attacks and other such occurrences that you may have to see what might have caused them.
Creating a plan with helpful tips for yourself and for your partner in case you do have a panic attack related to your prior trauma can also be very helpful. During these times, it is often difficult to communicate rationally with others, so having a paper with general “do’s and don’ts” can be quite beneficial for the people in your support system.
Finally, if you are on your journey of recovery and healing from sexual trauma, it is important to have a good support system in place. If at times you feel overwhelmed, do not hesitate to contact someone with the ability to help you. Additionally, if you are dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings, do not hesitate to call or chat with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.