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Reclaiming Sexuality After Sexual Trauma


Sex and sexuality may be affected by trauma in general and specifically by sexual trauma, especially within the first year. With sexual assault, different aspects of the offense can determine how sex and sexuality may change, such as if penetration was involved, if the offender is known, and the age of the survivor of sexual trauma. Healing after sexual trauma can look different for everyone and there is no “normal” way to react. Many survivors may find themselves having a distaste for sex while others may want to have more sex to replace the experience. Everyone’s way of healing is unique and having a good support system can help the healing progress.


There is no right answer on how to heal or when a survivor will be ready to have sex after sexual trauma. Here are some recommendations for healing and reclaiming sexuality after trauma:


  1. Ease into sexual activity: Choosing to have sex after sexual trauma at whatever time may be difficult. Patience and realistic expectations about the timing of resuming or starting consensual sexual activity may help prevent triggers and delays in progress.

  2. Therapy is essential: Going to a therapist who is the right fit is an important step and may help to repair the survivor’s relationship with sex. Whether this is a sex therapist, post-traumatic therapist, group therapy setting for survivors or a combination, finding an option that works can help the healing process.

  3. Having support: Creating a good support system is an important part of healing. Support can come from a partner, friends, professionals or family. Some may find it difficult to count on a solid support system so the support from professionals may lead the way to start.

  4. Choosing the right sexual partner: Finding the right partner to have sex with, casual or serious, is also an important factor to consider. The survivor has the right to disclose whatever information about their past trauma with which they feel comfortable.

  5. Setting clear boundaries: Communication is always advantageous for all, especially in matters of setting and enforcing boundaries. Getting ready to set firm boundaries may take practice but it will be a valuable skill in the journey towards healing. Having language to express boundaries and a plan to follow if those are not respected will empower survivors with the tools to navigate their sex life after trauma.

  6. The power of consent: Consent is a loan, not a gift. The person giving consent is empowered to take it away at any time, especially if they experience anxiety, change their minds or get triggered during sexual activity. Removing consent should come without negative consequences.

  7. Having an escape plan: A sex partner should never make the survivor of sexual trauma feel like they must comply with sexual demands. If a partner is showing signs of anger or pushback to boundaries, it is time to deploy a plan to safely step away from the situation. Work on this plan beforehand to be prepared.

  8. Self-care is important: Taking care of one’s emotional needs and taking time to self-soothe are a big part of the path towards healing. Mindfulness, journaling, meditation, exercise, reading, bubble baths and anything that can help the mind recalibrate are great strategies for bringing balance.

  9. Getting over guilt and shame: Sexual trauma is never the fault of the survivor. When a person’s sexual rights are violated, responsibility, accountability and justice must fall on the perpetrator and not the victim.


Survivors of sexual trauma can reclaim their sexual lives with the right support and guidance. Kindness, time and the right resources can give survivors a new opportunity to design a life in which they are in control of their sexual experiences.


Contributed by Isabella Calamari Caprez. Edited by Dr. Tanginika S. Cuascud, Clinical Sexologist. Isabella is a Junior at George Washington University, double majoring in Psychology and Communications in pursuit of becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist. She plans to practice in both English and Spanish and break the stigma of mental health and sex. Isabella is also one of the founders of GWU Clearminds, an organization centered around relationships and providing help to guide students on how to have healthier friendships, relationships and sexual interactions.

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