Navigating Sexuality After Sexual Assault

   For as long as I can remember I have been at war with my sexuality. I don’t remember what it feels like to be fully at peace with every single part of my body. I have accepted the trails of stretchmarks that reach up my torso and beyond my navel. I have accepted my sometimes spotted by acne face and this new phase of life that demands I pluck the odd dark hair from my chin. I have embraced and grown to love the brown lake of a birthmark that is freckled by beauty marks and swallows half of my upper right arm. I have been learning to accept my vagina and embrace the gift of sexuality and intimacy that it brings.

*

There is no guidebook on doing this after childhood sexual abuse, multiple rapes, and a violent sexual assault that changed the landscape of a vagina. Once the war is over and the bad men have left there is no fairy godmother that will bop you on the head with her wand and bring you true peace. Your escaping the war itself does not lead directly into a happily ever after. Instead you end up with anxiety, confusion, fear, anger, and insecurities that could cripple you if you listen to them.

*
These aren’t popular discussions either. They are messy and scary and full of shame. We all want to be the bad bitch that can hold shit down in the bedroom. No one wants to be the sexually challenged woman with post traumatic stress disorder flashbacks. I never wanted to admit that this was an area that I deeply struggled with. I had a hard time owning my sexuality and even owning the very basic- my sense of safety. I very much tried to subscribe to the “fake it till I make it” motto but you can’t fake it through a very real flashback and the following breakdown.

*
My mind always got the best of me before:
Can I trust him?
If I say no in this moment, is he capable of raping me?
What if I get triggered?
I am definitely triggered. Quick, act normal. Make an excuse. Get out of this. Avoid eye contact. Fuck.
If he tries to choke me and think it’s sexy I will punch him. I can’t do it. This is too much.
If I don’t tell him about what has happened to me, will he feel the difference?
My vagina will never be the same.
My vagina has been a source of sorrow for me.
My vagina stands between me and true intimacy.
Will he look at me differently after I tell him?
Will he want me?
I don’t know how to do this.

*

I have watched the stars fall out of men’s eyes after feeling brave enough to tell the stories that I need to so that I feel safe. The gravity of discussing violent acts somehow sucks the fun of entering into a new sexual adventure with a potential partner. Surprise. There was a man that sat with me through those difficult stories and felt like they needed to piece me back together after. There was a man that felt like I was a gentle flower afterwards and treated me like a fragile thing. There was a man that tried to act out in anger and demanded names and wanted to be my knight in shining armor who would pursue justice for me.

I am none of those things. I want none of those things. I am far beyond a broken thing. I am fierce. I have experienced hard things and have been successfully navigating them for some time now. I am not fragile. I enjoy a good solid slap on the ass. I will not break. I am not a damsel in distress. I do not need to be saved. I have saved myself. I have learned to handle each of these responses, including the response where they pull away from me when they decide it is too much for them.
I am a woman who was made too much by circumstance.

*
“What if you just don’t tell the story? Have you tried that?” my girlfriend asked.
If I don’t tell the story I will always hold someone at an arm’s length. I will always be so stuck in my head about what my vagina is and what my vagina isn’t and it will block me from being present. I will not allow myself to fully be seen if I stay silent. I have screamed into pillows and let my body become rigid with anger while trying to reconcile this. The fact of the matter is that the men that did this to me get to live their lives while I work to remember and reclaim what mine is and was and will be. This is fact. I cannot change this. I can only be accountable to myself and what needs to be done now. I no longer scream into pillows but there are still days that I weep in memory. These days come less and less. I refuse to remain a victim. I am leading myself through this.
Somedays I want so badly to leave these parts of me behind. To ignore them. To tuck them in an old shoe box and stick them at the back of a closet and let the junk pile up in front of it. They will not be seen … but I will always remember where they are.
I know that I am not alone in this. I know this because I have talked to some women about these very things. I know this because I learned to break out of myself and have these conversations with women in my life.

*
I have gently moved myself into a space of ownership and acceptance in regard to my sexuality but it hasn’t been easy. I don’t have a set of rules or practices or strategies to give to the next person. I only have the affirmation that you are not alone in this and you can free yourself. These are somethings that I have learned along the way:

1. When I am triggered, I discuss this with my partner. I no longer try to fake it till I make it. Historically I would try to find a way out of the situation. Ramble some incoherent mess. Leave and cry alone and try to figure it out. Usually this leaves my partner scratching their heads and wondering what they did wrong. Now when something comes up, I can say, “look some things came up for me right now. This has nothing to do with you. This is historical. I have to find my way through this”. I can then choose if I want to talk more on the subject or not.

2. I am gentle with myself. I am not always brave or straightforward. I sometimes panic. I no longer judge myself or feel defeated. I acknowledge the growth that I’ve had and know that I am on a continuous healing journey.

3. When all else fails I call a girlfriend that has been through something similar and we talk this shit out.

4. I have seen a counsellor to understand myself and gain insight. I have zero shame of my pursuit of becoming whole.

5. I have worked out what I want my sexuality to look like, be like, sound like, and have made numerous small advances to where I want to be – all the while being gentle with myself. The first time I decided to wear lingerie I had to call my girlfriend from the bathroom while wearing fishnets and high heels to give me a pep talk to face my then-partner on the other side of the door.

6. When I am able to say, touch me here. Or do it like this. I smile with the knowledge that I am bravely finding myself. I am healing. I am whole. I am coming to a place of peace where I can find pleasure where there was once only war. There is power in that.

 

7. Healing from and navigating these spaces will look different for EVERYONE and everyone will move along them at their own pace. Never judge yourself or your healing by comparing it to others experiences. As long as you are making moves, that is all that matters darling. Don’t think that you need to be “any type of way”. Hear me now, you are worthy of love. You are worthy of safety. You can be bold and brave. You are not a burden babe. You are fierce. You are making it through at your own pace.

That is all,

 

In Spirit,

Helen K

PS. – not a pity post so don’t hit me up with “Im sorry that happened to you”, I get it, but I am trying to initiate real conversations on real topics.

3 thoughts on “Navigating Sexuality After Sexual Assault

  1. Pontsho K Segwai May 7, 2019 — 7:47 pm

    Helen K

    U r definitely fierce with heart and dis piece of writing displays both da fierceness & ur heart.. Thank u 4 being authentic with all us us and allowing us in2 ur deepest centre.. Ur bravery will surely free someone and their sexuality will b transformed from a war zone 2 a place of peace… Thank u 4 using ur blessing (gift) of words 2 b a blessing! May ur healing b complete… Love u & wat u represent – a warrior 4 women!

    Like

  2. Limptlimt for sharing and baring your all to us. You speak right to my soul always. This is so needed right now. I see you girl ❤️
    Lots of love 💜

    Like

  3. this blog came up in my suggested reading section and i just wanted to say you are so strong for sharing your story. i hope you continue along this path of healing ❤️

    Like

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