Sex After Trauma:: Fighting for Your Worth

Sex After Trauma:: Fighting for Your Worth

I wish my contribution to this sexy after-dark series was sexy or even lived in the dark. I wish it was romantic and enticing. Instead, I know that I, like 1 in 5 women in the United States, have been raped. I also know that 1 in 4 women are victims of unwanted sexual advancements. I know that I am not alone. Statistics tell me this. But there is nothing in my life that has created shame and self-destruction like the effects of my trauma on my sex life. So, let’s go there. 

My initial trauma happened in my teens. I trusted. I thought I was safe. To say that this experience has forever shaped the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ of my life is a great underuse of words. The trail of damage has continued for decades and impacted every aspect of my life, especially my ability to trust. When you experience this kind of violation in such a formative time, your brain literally rewires for protection. 

A Little Background

I was raised in a conservative religious environment where the conversations about pre-marital sex were often shrouded in avoidance and sin. When you add to this foundation a traumatic sexual experience, secrets and shame take over. I did not speak of my assault for 5 years. To anyone. The deeply grooved paths of sexual confusion, fear and hurt defined every relationship that I tried to have. Let me back up. They still do. I’m 5 therapists, 25+ years and the proud owner of a string of relationships that have paid the price of my trauma. The tentacles of the pain are significant. My marriage, my friendships and my children have all been punching bags for my misplaced fear and anger. But there is no relationship that has suffered like the one that I have with my own body.

Me, Myself and I

It would seem that a post about sex would have a significant leaning toward the participatory activity of togetherness, but for those of us that have our history littered with the bombs of sexual trauma there is an important first step. Before you can see yourself as worthy of physical pleasure, you have to have believe that you qualify for that kind of investment. Because of things that happened before and during my assault and the feelings of distrust and pain that were activated, my body and I are enemies. Sure, that’s the case for many teenage young woman, but my study and friends’ shared experiences tell me that there is a season of exploration and freedom that most people have as they come to not only make peace, but embrace their physical selves. Let me say this as someone who has made it to her 40s without this vital self-love:: no one can love you into loving yourself. No one. 

Digging Up Bones

I am a capable human. I am well educated and well read. I have a passion for fighting for others. I protect fiercely. What I didn’t know how to do instinctively was to fight for myself. From my very first moment of shame and fear about sex {I mean, really, the terror game is overpowering} I have created an impenetrable wall of protection that prevented anyone from knowing the depth of my inner anguish. The further I moved from the actual trauma, the more I tried to tell myself that THIS is not about THAT. I would have an experience that would shake me to the core {sexual or not} and I would immediately think to myself, there is no way that this is still related to your assault. Get over it. What I can tell you today is that the ghosts of assault do not leave. There may be times when the voices are quieter. There may be seasons of less pain. But feelings from the past will reappear. They will. And they do. When you least expect them.

The 20/20 Experience

Hindsight, man. I can look at this year from an intellectual perspective and easily see why so many of us with trauma triggers have been blown off course. I get it. But when you are decades past the experience and you have walked through marriage and childbirth and littles and feelings and post-baby intimacy and lots of years of sexual navigation, you think you have the perfect “system” for life management. And then it happens. You shift. Sometimes it is a big shift, sometimes it is a single event. For me it has been all of the above. 2020 has knocked the blocks out from under my feet in ways that have been predictable, but it has also brought back some of the worst memories and feelings. And they all go back to the core of my fears. Powerlessness. Unworthiness. Aloneness. Secrets. Shame. Rape. 

Trauma and Reconnection

When I hit a wall this year, I threw my hands up in surrender. How many more times was I going to have to “talk” about this? I fought it for a few months. And then I surrendered. I did something new. I didn’t call one of the kind and warm therapist that have walked me through fragile seasons. I researched and studied trauma. I looked for a professional that could take me into the darkest fears and refused to let me be there alone. I have persevered though awkward Zoom sessions about my sex life. {Side note:: lock your door when doing therapy from home – dog visits during visualizations are quite awkward.} Trauma therapy is the hardest work of my life. Seeing the way that my every inch of skin and love and hurt is tied to the past, present and the future is exhausting. But I know, it is my only hope for living. It’s the only way that I can live in relationships. It is the only way that I can ever trust others or myself. So, I’m here for it.

This is Not About Sex

But, it is. The number of times that I have wanted to talk about and explore and create a sex life that I enjoy are too many to count. There have always been the road blocks. The places on my body that hold stories that still hurt too much to touch. The moments when from no where, I can’t move or breathe because the vulnerability is just too much. This is all tied to trauma. It’s not about just about sex, but every action of my physical experience is rooted in the stories of insufficiencies and fears that my body holds. To move to freedom, I have to move all the way through the trauma triggered feelings, not stop in the middle {if you want your world rocked on this subject, check out this episode of Brene Brown’s podcast}. I’ve lived the ‘just healthy enough’ life for long enough. Now it is time to live in fullness – sexually and every other way my body needs me to show up for her. 

So, I have a new primary relationship in my life. 

She is complicated and strong and worthy. 

We have some serious healing to do. 

We have some trust to rebuild. 

But, we are showing up for each other. 


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One Response to Sex After Trauma:: Fighting for Your Worth

  1. Christi November 19, 2020 at 11:40 pm #

    Thank you for sharing Lacy. ❤️

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