What Is Sex Like After Rape?


As you guys know I’ve been a support group leader for sexual assault and domestic abuse victims for a while now. Aside from running general groups, I specialize in assisting sexual assault victims with regaining their sexuality.
Support groups are fantastic, amazing, wonderful places, but unfortunately they are oftentimes filled with women who have been so beaten down that they are too shy to speak up. They are feeling shame for what happened, shame for their bodies, and embarrassment for a crime that involved such a private act. Compound that with the fact that the leaders of the groups certainly don’t want trigger anyone by bringing up the whole “penis in vagina” topic that brought most of the women there in the first place, it leads to the fact that oftentimes sex after rape is just simply not talked about in many groups.
These women got forced into a sexual act and then no one wants to talk about what the next sexual encounter might be like. How scary to have the most terrifying event in your life take place and then have no one prep you for what might happen the next time you encounter a situation that while totally different, is kind of the same?
It occurred to me one day, while teaching strip class to assault survivors, that here I was assisting these women while they reclaimed their sexuality, and then I was sending them back out into their lives afraid to use that sexuality.
I let all the women know that I would be holding a special group specifically to talk about sex after rape and then left it up to them to decide if it was something they felt like they could benefit from.

They all showed up and then some.
Since this is a subject rarely talked about in most support groups, I’ll ask you, do you know what sex is like after rape?
I know that the issue obviously spreads further than the walls of the group that I teach, maybe even to some of you, so why don’t we take a minute and talk about it?
How might someone feel having sex after being raped?

Unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly what sex is like after being raped because no two people are alike. Experiences ranged from simply not being able to do it, to mentally checking out, to having a full blown panic attack, to suddenly becoming enraged during a flashback. Other women were totally fine and that made them feel bad. The felt like they should be feeling something that they weren’t, as if maybe their rape didn’t mean that much. 
Trauma manifests itself in so many different ways that it would be impossible for me to cover them all. What I can do though is to share some of the most common issues that arise when having sex after being raped.
Common responses during sex after rape can include;
-Flashbacks

-Anxiety/panic attack

-Feelings of rage or shame

-Vaginismus (an involuntary spasm of the muscles in and around the vagina stemming from a psychological response that makes penetration uncomfortable or even impossible)

-Disassociation from your surroundings
Those are some of the most common responses, but they are not the only responses. The way that a person reacts has no right or wrong answer. I always say that you can’t always understand traumatic reactions because they are the response to a situation that should have never existed. You can’t always understand the act that caused the trauma and you can’t always understand the reaction to it.

There is no right or wrong way to react during sex after being raped.

What someone can do though, is to be prepared. Be armed with knowledge by spending a little time looking into the effects of Rape Trauma Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, two things that affect a good majority of rape survivors. Learn what might and could happen; not to become scared, but so that they can better understand what is going on in the moment that it is happening should an issue arise. There is no way to control how someone reacts, but understanding why it is happening goes a long way in being being able to work through it.
Good communication between a survivor and their partner is key.

Sex isn’t a one person job and the person someone chooses to take with them on their first sexual experience after rape should be someone they trust. Knowing that the other person is going to let them take the lead and move at their own pace will set the tone for healing. If they are pushed too fast there is a good chance they will go running in the opposite direction, which only makes the journey moving forward that much longer.

The most important thing that I can tell someone about sex after rape is that it is ok to wait until they are ready. 

There is no deadline, no timeline that they should be moving at. Some people want to do it right away to get it over with and prove to themselves that they can still do it. Other people take years before they are able to let themselves go there again.

There is no right moment, no right time, unless it is right for them.
Beyond that, it’s not a switch they can flip. It’s not like they have sex afterbeing raped and then they get to be all “I’m done, I did it, I can move on now.”
Nope, unfortunately the trauma can hang around. They might be fine for a day, for months, and then that one touch, that one sound, it might send them right back to a moment in their rape and you know what? It’s ok. It’s normal. It is completely understandable. Trauma ingrains itself in the brain. Rape is such a horrific event; it is an act that stole their body, broke their heart, and changed their thinking.
Healing is a process and however long it takes is however long it takes. A good partner will be ok with that and anyone who isn’t doesn’t deserve them!
This is their life, their body, and no one but them can tell them what to do in their life with their body.
There is no right way or time to have sex after rape. The only right way, is the way that is right for them. 

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14 Comments

  • Anonymous
    December 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    You are so brave. I wish I could magically make everything in your life better for you and your kids.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 10, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      Thank you 🙂

      *hugs*

  • Mzfuzz
    December 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Eden. I totally agree. Even though my rape was 15 years ago, and I've had lots of “successful” sex since then, the right (wrong?) thing at the right (wrong?) time, sends me straight into panic and disassociation. It's a hard thing, but it's easier now that I know why it happens, and I can talk to a partner about it before hand, so that if it happens, they can help me get through it. Thanks again for bringing up the elephant in the room!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 10, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      It’s amazing how ingrained the memories are. I’m glad you have had partners who were able to work with you 🙂

  • Anonymous
    December 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    I really needed this, thank you for helping me not feel so alone.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 10, 2014 at 7:29 am

      You are not alone 🙂

  • GE
    December 9, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Is it normal to just be pissed off at the person who did it? The main reason I'm mad is because he made me a statistic and I feel like enough bad things have happened to me already. I don't care that I was violated or that he didn't listen to no, I care that this is something that on the growing list of shit I am furious about. Is that normal?

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 10, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      Absolutely. There is also no right or wrong thing to feel angry about, everyone feels and deals with things in their own way and that is ABSOLUTELY ok. I’ve heard women be angry at things I never would have thought to be angry about, it’s completely normal.

  • Anonymous
    December 9, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    One of my friends still feels the need to always be on top during heavy foreplay or sex. The first dozen or so times, her partner was handcuffed to the bed so she could feel extra safe and in control (yes, he freely consented to it) and she still keeps the cuffs handy in case she starts feeling insecure. She says it made her feel more free to act on her desires because she could be confident that her actions wouldn't make him lose control and flip her onto her back and she would still be in charge no matter what. After enough sessions where he proved that he would do whatever she said no matter how much he was “tortured” sexually, they started trying sex without them. Of course, now he loves her cuffing him to the bed and having her way with him but that's a different story… ;)JH

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 10, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      That’s actually really interesting and creative! I’m glad that it worked out so well for your friend…and her partner!

      Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Victoria Bell
    December 11, 2014 at 9:30 am

    I don't know you, but I wanted to say thank you for doing what you can to help other domestic violence survivors. You are amazing!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 12, 2014 at 1:46 am

      I don’t know about “amazing,” but I appreciate your sweet words 🙂

      *hugs*

  • ~Kristi~
    December 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Google ate my comment. TL;DR, no memory of childhood abuse, most memory of teenage abuse, have overcome most sexual issues that I know of except dissociation. FINALLY got over my fear of unprotected sex with husband, now only one huge fear left.. ejaculation inside of me. I don't know why, and don't know how to fix it. And it'll make having kids in the future pretty difficult if I can't >.<

    • NotMyShametoBear
      December 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      I’m proud of you for overcoming so much! It’s not easy and it takes a lot of dedication and hard work. Go you!!

      When it comes time to having kids, there are always other ways 🙂 I’ve heard of women using a turkey baster technique, or the doctor prescribing short acting anti anxiety pills, to actual medical insemination.

      Either way, no matter what happens, be proud of how far you have come 🙂

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