Feeling broken after abuse

Questions and discussion about sexual or other abuse or assault, and support and help for survivors.
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This area of the boards is expressly for support and help for those who are currently in or have survived abuse or assault. It is also for those seeking information or discussion about abuse or assault. Please make every effort in this space to be supportive and sensitive. Posts in this area may or do describe abuse or assault explicitly.

This area of the boards is also not an area where those who are themselves abusing anyone or who have abused or assaulted someone may post about doing that or seek support. We are not qualified to provide that kind of help, and that also would make a space like this feel profoundly unsafe for those who are being or who have been abused. If you have both been abused and are abusing, we can only discuss harm done to you: we cannot discuss you yourself doing harm to others. If you are someone engaging in abuse who would like help, you can start by seeking out a mental healthcare provider.
Occidentalis
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Feeling broken after abuse

Unread postby Occidentalis » Sat Feb 22, 2020 1:35 am

I was raped when I was seven and a while ago realised that’s what had happened. I feel like sex is a bear trap for me now, that I’m desperately trying to have as much of it as possible and then feeling dissatisfied with what I got. I’m usually okay with what I gave, I enjoy taking the lead and while I love being able to just lay back and feel what my partner does, it takes a really really long time for me to actually start properly feeling it. I take at least twice as long as he does from start to finish, and we’re both trans men. Sometimes I also don’t even feel the calmness afterwards, it’s just immediately me feeling like I’m a slut who just wants someone to take what happened to me out of my head.

Why doesn’t it feel as good anymore? Why does it take so long for me to actually start feeling good at all? I don’t want being raped to have broken me but I don’t know what else to do.

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Re: Feeling broken after abuse

Unread postby Sam W » Sat Feb 22, 2020 9:06 am

Hi Occidentalis,

I'm so sorry that someone chose to assault you when you were younger. Can I ask what kind of support, if any, you've gotten around this?

Even if the assault is partly the cause of the struggles you're having right now around sex and pleasure, I want you to know that doesn't mean you're broken; it just means your brain and body are trying to deal with what happened in ways that don't always match with what you want to be experiencing in the moment. Lots of survivors face challenges when it comes to navigating sex after an assault, but over time find ways to reconnect with their bodies, partners, and pleasure in general.

It sounds like an unkind part of your brain has latched on to the messaging that survivors will seek out sex just to try and cope with the assault. Is that message something you've heard from other people?

(Too, I'd argue that there's nothing wrong with a survivor seeking out a positive, enjoyable sexual experience with a caring partner).

Part of your question was "why doesn't sex feel good anymore?" Had it been pleasurable up until recently? If so, are there any big changes you're dealing with in your life, or things that are causing you a lot of stress? Did you notice pleasure starting to disappear after you realized what happened when you were seven?

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Re: Feeling broken after abuse

Unread postby 0PT1M15T1C » Sat Feb 22, 2020 9:35 am

I hope it's okay that I chime in here,

Firstly I want to say how sorry I am that happened to you.

With this piece that you mentioned "it takes a really really long time for me to actually start properly feeling it. I take at least twice as long as he does from start to finish" I want to say that the time it takes different people to either feel good or reach orgasm can vary greatly depending on the person. It seems you are also placing a lot of pressure on yourself, which can really affect how much you may be able to enjoy what is happening. I wonder if this is something you'd be open to discussing with your partner a bit more.

You mentioned you are both trans, as am I, one thing I really notice is there's a lot of times where because of my body and dysphoria I don't enjoy even the thought of someone doing things to me, and much prefer the thought of being able to do things for my partner to feel enjoyment. I mention this because as a trans person sex can be quite a difficult topic to manage, not for everyone but I've found it's something that is quite common. I'm not sure if that's exactly what's happening for you, but thought it might be worth mentioning. There's also quite a lot of stigma around the topic and Scarleteen does actually have a great article on ways to manage this if you're interested: https://www.scarleteen.com/trans_summer ... es_you_can It may help you out, but it's up to you if you want to take a peak.

So there's quite a few things going on in this piece " Sometimes I also don’t even feel the calmness afterwards, it’s just immediately me feeling like I’m a slut who just wants someone to take what happened to me out of my head." And the first thing I want to say, is that orgasm isn't going to look the same every time, sometimes it's going to feel eh and others fantastic. Sometimes yeah, you'll feel calmer and it's possible other times you may not (especially if you are struggling with your past.)
I'm curious as to why you feel like having sex would make you a slut? That must be a pretty difficult thing to feel. There's no shame in sex, and as I'm learning, it's pretty normal, I mean just as an example, mentioned a similar problem I was having with my therapist and it's become a joke to help me learn that it's not something I have to be ashamed about, that if you want to have sex, go for it (obviously make sure you're being safe and asking for consent.)
You also mentioned that you wish someone could take what happened out of your head. I wonder, is this something you've been able to get support around or talk to anyone about? Being able to talk and process what happened is really important in being able to heal as well as learn how to care and cope with what happened better.

Lastly, I want to make it clear that although you may feel like you're broken, you aren't, trauma is a really hard thing to go through and really messes with your brain a bit. That is not to diminish what you went through, but instead try and offer a little understanding of that? For me, what you are mentioning is rather similar to what I went through, especially when it comes to those feelings around being broken and struggling with sex. Here's a few things that really have been helping me:
- Having someone to talk to, openly and honestly. For me, this was my friends, my school counsellor and my therapist, who really kind of changed the way I view talking about sex by the way she reacted. The way she kind of put it was that you aren't going to be having sex if there's a tiger in the room, and for me, that tiger is the trauma I experienced. That isn't to say she meant I wouldn't be able to, it just meant I had to work on really feeling safe and comfortable enough.
- This one may sound rather simple, and honestly, I thought it was rather ridiculous until I tried it, but it's become a regular part of my routine. I'm so glad it was recommended for me (credits; horriblegoose.) Take a shower, turn all the lights off (or have a candle or something that produces some light if you're clumsy like me), turn on some calm music, and touch your body, notice where you like to be touched and don't, notice where you like a little more pressure and where you like less, just notice the hair on your body, the way the water hits your skin. Focus on your breathing and try to relax.
- I'm not sure if you do this or not, but masturbation, that's a pretty great one. If you're going into any sort of sexual activity with already charged feelings and lots of pressure on yourself to perform, chances are things aren't going to feel as great or you will have a really hard time being able to get anywhere. Your brain and how you feel play a major role in your sexuality and pleasure. Schedule some time where you know you won't be walked in on, or be made to rush, and take it slow. Try to let yourself know it's okay if you're unable to reach orgasm or reach any point of pleasure specifically, and rather, encourage yourself to be curious. Again, this may sound kind of weird, but it's something that has really helped me.

Sex can definitely bring up some negative emotions after what happened and I want you to know that that okay.
Realising what has happened can definitely be extremely difficult, and I'm sure there's a lot of different emotions coming up about it. Know that people can and do have fulfilling sexual and non sexual lives after having experienced trauma. It can kind of throw your beliefs for a spin as well as your trust and so many other pieces. I promise you, you are not broken, but healing may take time.
There's also one more article I wanted to share, that someone shared with me, however so many people chimed in on my post I'm really struggling to find who sent it, regardless, here's the article: https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wies ... nsibility/
For me it was pretty empowering and something I look at often, I hope you enjoy it as well.

Know that people here are here to support you as best they can, and I wish you the best <3


EDIT: Didn't realise Sam was even online let alone responded, so I'll leave that where it is.
You have the power to say "This is not how my story will end".

Occidentalis
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Re: Feeling broken after abuse

Unread postby Occidentalis » Sat Feb 22, 2020 4:49 pm

Hey. The support I’ve gotten has largely been with my therapist, who specialises in trauma. My psychiatrist and therapist are both in agreement as to the mental health effects of what happened, which is its own ball of scary, but my therapist is pretty good with it.

My partner knows about this. It took me a few months to tell him because he actually had a very similar experience and I didn’t want to remind him of his own, but he’s never had this issue with me at least. I know he’s had way longer to come to terms with his own assault but he’s always fully in control of his sexuality and he never lets his trauma and sex end up mixed together like I do.

I don’t really know if I internalised the idea that trauma makes some survivors seek out sex from outside. I was stupid enough that even when I deliberately sought out triggering material to try and understand the horrifying gut feeling it gave me (and body flashbacks) I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing because I hadn’t realised this was a really significant thing.

Sex had been quite pleasurable until I realised. It’s not always sub-par now, I always enjoy myself to some extent and it’s only about half the time that the end feels a bit wrong, but that’s a lot more than it used to. I don’t get it.

To the other poster, I don’t think dysphoria plays much of a part here. We got around that roadblock pretty early in our relationship. I also didn’t used to take anywhere near this long - it actually used to be the case that sometimes he’d end up getting me off twice because I was quicker off the mark than him. Even when it slowed down to a normal pace I usually ended up being first by a couple of minutes, but now I’m just way off the other end. Half the time I finish myself off because he ends up too floppy and tired to focus. He makes a concentrated effort to spend more time on me first to get us to an even playing field, but a lot of the time I admit to him that this isn’t doing much and we should just keep going with the rest of the sex.

Even exploratory masturbation has the issue. I can find where feels good and I can continue that but it still takes a really long time, and only half the time does the end actually feel good instead of disappointing enough that it rekindles my feeling like a slut. I know there’s no shame in sex, I live with my sister and we have a really open communication around sex and sexuality, to the point where I felt comfortable asking her questions after my first (consensual) time to make sure I was taking care of myself and my partner properly. My best friend and I also have really open communication around sex, often discussing differences testosterone makes to sex. I don’t have any reason to be slut-shaming anyone, and yet here I am, feeling like I’m just reduced to a sex-obsessed mess trying to shut my brain up by sleeping with my partner.

I mostly feel like I’m broken because this isn’t the only childhood trauma I’ve had and I’m a mess of a person from the lot of it, and this just kind of took the cake. I feel like this is just damaging my life so much and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Sam W
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Re: Feeling broken after abuse

Unread postby Sam W » Sun Feb 23, 2020 9:16 am

I'm so glad that you're accessing support from someone who specializes in trauma. Have you spoken to your therapist at all about the way trauma is interfering in your sex life? If so, have they suggested ways to address that?

Have you noticed anything that's different about the times sex leaves you feeling "wrong" and the times it doesn't? Or does it seem like there's no obvious pattern to whether you end up feeling good or bad afterwards?

I do want to add that, while the timeline suggests that trauma or your feelings about the assault is playing a big role here, it's not all that strange for people's sexual responses (like how long it takes to reach orgasm) to vary from time to time. Things like medication, how tired you are, or how stressed you are can also play a big role. So while it's sound to keep digging in to the role trauma is playing here, it may also help to keep in mind that there could be other factors involved as well.

It's absolutely okay to be feeling frustrated or angry at the ways trauma is influencing your life. I'd argue that dealing with trauma doesn't mean someone is a mess (too, it seems like your partner is dealing with at least some of the same stuff, and you don't seem to see him as a mess). But that doesn't mean it's easy to stop feeling like you're a mess because of it. Something it might help to remember is that messes aren't permanent; you can address them and gradually build something that feels a little less messy. Even if it feels like there's nothing you can do, you're actually already doing several things to address this. You're getting therapy, you came here to ask for support, you've talked with your partner about what you're going through. Those are all really big steps to take, and you deserve to feel proud for taking them, y'know?

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Re: Feeling broken after abuse

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Sun Feb 23, 2020 3:15 pm

Hey, Occidentalis; I'm so sorry for what you've gone through and how it's currently impacting you. <3 It sounds like you have a really good support system, though, and that's great.

How would you feel about backing off having sex so often for a while, as you sort out your mind and your body and your feelings?

That doesn't mean you're giving up on sex or that you can't have any sex or that you're accepting how you're feeling about sex will be how you're feeling about sex always.

It just means that some big stuff has been happening to you emotionally, psychologically, and mentally and all of that is very reasonably impacting you physically as well. It sounds like you're experiencing a lot of pressure around sex that's making sex less enjoyable, making you feel like you should be having sex rather than genuinely wanting to have sex, and making sex more guilt-inducing than anything else.

Can you and your partner focus on some other ways to be intimate with each other right now and help take the pressure off of sex and your relationship to it and to give yourself some more time to process and figure out how to move forward from the awful realization you've had about the csa you experienced?
You could wash each other in the shower, enjoy a bath together, get massages together or take time to massage each other with lotions and oils, give each other foot rubs, sit naked with each other and compliment each other's bodies, draw on each other's bodies with safe material, or shave each other (if applicable). You could have a picnic in a park, go out for a hike, go to a museum you haven't visited, learn a new language or new skill together, cook dinner together, go mini golfing, go to a paint night, start a new exercise routine/type (yoga? a martial art? rock climbing?), or read a book out loud with each other. You could share your unspoken hopes and dreams for the future with each other, stay in and build a pillow fort and spend the night under it, go stargazing or cloudwatching, share your poetry with each other, share secrets like you real favorite songs or things you did with your friends that you never told your parents about, or sing to each other.

There's so much you can do beyond sex to be close with your partner.

Just because you're processing something that happened years ago doesn't mean it isn't big or awful or won't impact you today. You're not weak or broken or wrong or anything negative for how you've been feeling. Please try to give yourself a break! You're doing a lot of good things for yourself! You have a good support system - that you built up for yourself! Take some of the pressure off sex right now and focus on some other ways to be close with your partner - or even to be close to your own body. You do not have anything to prove.

The mind/body connection is strong. It wasn't too long ago that you realized this information about what you've gone through. Keep doing the good things you're doing for yourself. Have sex when you genuinely want to and enjoy the journey when you do (orgasm is not the end all, be all of sex - that other stuff you do before and after feels good, too, and it's good to focus on that stuff!). In the meantime, find other ways to foster a positive relationship with your body and your partner.

You're not broken. You're human. And any number of little things can change our libido or relationship to sex. You have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to prove. Take your time and do what feels right for yourself.


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