When one or both partners have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault, many couples have joyful, fulfilling, intimate sexual relationships. An experience of sexual abuse does not automatically mean that sex, sexual intimacy and sexual enjoyment will be difficult. Sometimes, however, sexual abuse can impact on partner’s sexual relationship, and require some working through. This page details some common difficulties, along with steps that can be taken to enhance sexual intimacy, for couples where a male partner has experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault.
Foundations for enjoyable sex
First, it is useful to remember that negotiating, developing and maintaining sexual intimacy can be a challenge in ANY relationship. It’s great when satisfying sex and sexual relationships just happen. However, this is not always the case for everyone 100% of the time. In any sexual relationship, each partner will need to work out what is sensual, playful, sensitive, joyful and fulfilling for them. Each couple will need to work out how can they make this happen in safe, mutually satisfying ways. Typically, enjoying sexual intimacy in longer term relationships involves a bit of work.
Some building blocks for satisfying sexual relationships are:
- Accurate information about your own sexuality, your partner’s, and about sex itself.
- Having or developing an orientation based on pleasure (arousal, love, lust, and fun), rather than performance.
- Having the kind of relationship in which good sex can flourish.
- Being able to communicate verbally and non-verbally about sex.
- Being assertive about your own desires, and able to focus fully on your own pleasure.
- Being exquisitely sensitive to your partner and being able to respond sexually with them.
- Understanding, accepting, and appreciating sex differences.
Factors that can impact on satisfying sex
Ever since the kids came along it seemed like we were not as close as we’d been before, especially in the bedroom. I just thought that things would get better in time, but they’re worse now. We don’t talk about it much and we hardly ever have sex any more. He says it’s the same for everyone and that there’s nothing wrong. So when he finally told me about the abuse I was totally knocked over! But, at the same time it kind of made sense. I had sometimes thought that maybe something might have happened to him. Whilst, I felt so sad for him, it was a relief to know.”
Disentangling what might be impacting on shared pleasure in sexual intimacy can be tricky. Given that sexual abuse can have such a profound impact on people’s lives, it is not surprising that when difficulties do appear, couples can focus in on the legacy of the abuse as the source of the problem, when there might be other factors at play.
It is important to consider additional factors that are known to impact on enjoying sex and sexual intimacy in relationships:
- Sleep difficulties.
- Body image.
- Erectile dysfunction and other physical factors.
- Low testosterone.
- Relationship difficulties.
- The impact of parenting.
All of the above can influence individual and couple sexual intimacy, and might need checking out and working on.
It is good to keep in mind that cultural factors and gender expectations also shape men and women’s approach to sex. It is not uncommon for men in our society to grow up believing sex is simply something that they do with their bodies, rather than an expression of emotional intimacy. Also remember that expectations about sexuality and sexual relationships change! The idea that people in long term relationships should have a full and satisfying sex life, based in equality, is a recent one. Up until the 1960s, a man’s role was very much that of provider, ensuring that the family had a roof over their heads and food on the table. See our page on Men and intimacy.
Particular problems related to sexual abuse
Given that sexual abuse involves unwanted sexual contact or inappropriate exposure, sex and sexually intimate relationships can easily become a place where difficulties might appear. Sometimes, men who have been sexually abused have been able to ‘do’ or ‘perform’ sex in a casual way in their teens or twenties. The difficulties are often identified later, when engaging in sex within the context of a loving relationship.
For some men, the experience of sexual assault can at times “play itself out” in the area of sex and intimacy. If the sexual assault has occurred within an emotionally intimate relationship, for example with a trusted adult, then it makes sense that when sex and intimacy come together later in life alarm bells can sound.
An experience of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault can impact on sexual relationships in the following ways:
- Increased confusion during sexual and emotional intimacy.
- Discomfort with touch in certain areas of the body.
- Limiting the type of sexual activity considered okay or enjoyable.
- Requiring certain circumstances to be in place. For example, lights on or off when sex occurs.
- Experiencing difficulties in achieving sexual arousal or ejaculation.
- Feeling distress, shame or guilt about a sexual response, interest or fantasy.
- Low libido or avoiding sex altogether.
- Excessive interest and validation of manhood through sex.
- Engaging in sexually compulsive behavior.
- ‘Checking out,’ disengaging emotionally.
- Requiring the use of pornography or sexual aids to achieve arousal or ejaculation.
- Difficulty trusting sexual partners.
- Experiencing panic attacks, disassociation or flashbacks during sexual activity.
- Difficulties in sexual relationships, confusing sex with love, care-giving, abuse, pain, with being powerless or being powerful.
Most men are raised to believe that physical sexual arousal can only occur when there is sexual desire. If a man has experienced physical arousal, even ejaculation, as part of being abused, it can be extremely confusing for him. He may believe that he was in some way responsible for what occurred, and this may even have been suggested to him by the abuser. His whole sense of being a man and his sexuality can then come into conflict (see Sexual assault & arousal). The fact that 80% of men who are sexually abused in childhood are sexually abused by men means that they are often confronted by questions relating to sexuality. Some straight identifying men may also have been told, or secretly fear, that they are gay. This can get in the way of emotional and sexual intimacy with partners.
How sexual abuse can shape understandings of sex
An experience of sexual abuse can produce a particular mind-set, or frame of reference, where sex become viewed in unhelpful negative terms, rather than a positive energy that consenting adults can enjoy. See below for an excellent list compiled by Healthyplace.com
|Sex as sexual abuse||Sex as positive sexual energy|
|Sex as uncontrollable energy||Sex as controllable energy|
|Sex is an obligation||Sex is a choice|
|Sex is addictive||Sex is a natural drive|
|Sex is hurtful||Sex is nurturing, healing|
|Sex is a condition for receiving love||Sex is an expression of love|
|Sex is a ‘doing to’ someone||Sex is sharing with someone|
|Sex is a commodity||Sex is part of who I am|
|Sex is absence of communication||Sex involves communication|
|Sex is secretive||Sex is private|
|Sex is exploitative||Sex is respectful|
|Sex is deceitful||Sex is honest|
|Sex benefits one person||Sex is mutual|
|Sex is emotionally distant||Sex is intimate|
|Sex is irresponsible||Sex is responsible|
|Sex is unsafe||Sex is safe|
|Sex has no limits||Sex has boundaries|
|Sex is power over someone||Sex is empowering|
Negotiating and enhancing a sexual relationship with a partner can be a challenge if the partner does not know about the experience of sexual abuse. This can further isolate the man and have him trying to control, work it out or manage situations and bodily reactions.
I always knew there were some no-go zones – things that we just didn’t do and places I just didn’t touch but I never knew why. It now makes lots of sense to me what those things have been about and I can see that we can still have a close relationship without having to do it all. In fact, it is better now that I know what is uncomfortable for him and why.”
As a couple it is useful to:
- Be aware that it is not uncommon for memories and difficulties relating to sexual abuse to re-appear during sexual contact. Situations that replicate the experience of the abuse are likely to be particularly challenging.
- Develop an awareness of what are, or might be, the sensitive areas, scenarios, and trigger points following an experiences of sexual abuse. For example, who was involved, their gender, relationship context, the ways of engaging or disengaging, the places, acts, positions, touches, smells, sounds, feelings, etc.
- Place an emphasis on slowly developing an understanding of preferences in:
- Prioritising safety and choice.
- Becoming familiar and comfortable with your body.
- Talking and how to talk about these topics.
- Being together and in tune with your partner and their body.
- Your wishes and desires.
Talk, take time and prioritise choice
- Increased emotional engagement and communication have been specifically identified as important qualities. These improve the sexual relationship where the male partner has experienced sexual abuse.
- If difficulties arise, take time to check in and reassure yourself that it is not about you. Some partners may feel unattractive, or that they have somehow done something wrong, and not realise it isn’t about this at all.
- If possible, talk to your partner about the difficulties. Offer some ways forward that you have already thought about, for example, experimenting with intimate touch without the focus being on genital intercourse.
- Be really clear about your partner’s and your own boundaries and limits. Everyone has a right to say “No” to things that don’t feel comfortable or safe.
- Know that when your partner is sexual with you he is taking a big step in trust. The occasional stumble is to be expected.
Be cautious of applying standardised sex therapy techniques for engagement and enhancing sexual pleasure. These may not consider and adjust for the influence of an experience of sexual abuse. Some sex therapy techniques can be very prescriptive, giving people specific homework to do, rather than prioritizing people’s sense of personal choice and control.
Seek help if difficulties persist
Sex ought to be an enjoyable, fun, life giving aspect in intimate partner relationships. If difficulties continue after talking things through, and trying different ways to introduce more sexual intimacy into your relationship, do seek help from a qualified counsellor or sex therapist. Ideally you are looking to talk with a professional person who has understanding, knowledge and experience in addressing histories of sexual trauma in ways that support enhancement of sexual intimacy.
- Anderson Jacob, C. McCarthy Veach. Intrapersonal and familial effects if childhood sexual abuse on female partners of male survivors. Journal of counselling psychology 2005, 52:3, 284-297
- Hall, K. ‘Childhood sexual abuse and adult sexual problems: A new view of assessment and treatment’. Feminism and Psychology 2008 18:546-556.
- Sanderson, Christiane. Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, 3rd Ed. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2006.
- Schachter, C.L., Stalker, C.A., Teram, E., Lasiuk, G.C., Danilkewich, A. (2009). Handbook on sensitive practice for health care practitioner: Lessons from adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/sources/nfnts/nfnts-sensi/index-eng.php
Comment by Andrei
Andrei September 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm
Hi, not sure what to say. This article says many things about the way I feel. I was sexually abused by my brother at a young age. It was discovered and then stopped like it was a phase or naughty behaviour. I have issues with intimacy. My wife says sex is only on my terms. When I want it. I don’t want sex as much as she does and it affects our marriage. I haven’t told her what has happened but I have implied it had. Our marriage is having major issues and this is a major cause. She feels rejected when I say no. I have low libido and trust is an issue. What should I do? A
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] September 10, 2015 at 3:13 pm
Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us, and overcoming quite a lot of barriers to reach out for some advice.
It can be such a challenge to tell a partner, or anyone really, about sexual abuse.. not being sure about what kind of response you will get. I’m hearing that you’ve hinted at it, which can be a kind of ‘safer’ way of sharing with her what is going on for you. I think even that must not have been easy for you to do.
It sounds like you have already identified that the relationship difficulties you’ve described, and working these out, will involve opening up communication.
I think that first it would be useful to tell your wife how much you value this relationship, and want to work things out and grow and improve together. I know that you do, because you have come here to seek help on it. That clearly shows how much you want to work on this. For your wife, simply knowing that you are willing to work towards positive change could be very meaningful, encouraging and motivating.
I’m hearing that the abuse you experienced has impacted on intimacy and trust. Please know that relationships are absolutely a place you can work this out and improve on those qualities. If you haven’t already, I invite you to take a look at our pages on Developing intimacy in a relationship and perhaps also our page on Men and emotions. Being ’emotionally intimate’ with your wife may be the first step towards building trust, communication, and other forms of intimacy.
Finally, Andrei, it is very much your choice whether or not you tell your wife about the abuse. If you are considering it but are still uncertain, perhaps it might be helpful to work first towards improving communication and intimate expression in general. Focus on learning how to be open, to respond, and support each other in helpful ways.
Having said that, of course it is can be really useful for partners to understand what is going on and what the struggles are – not just for themselves, but also to enable you both to fully support each other.
I wish you the best Andrei. Please do get in touch with us if you would like any further support.
Comment by Mark
Mark May 9, 2016 at 8:12 pm
Hi Andrei – I am going through Wendy Maltz’s relearning touch videos and I’m finding this is really helping, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXE14sDPOP8
Comment by Melissa
Melissa September 17, 2015 at 7:59 am
I was in a sexually and emotionally/physiologically abusive relationship last year. Even though 7 months isn’t a long time, the abuse in the relationship has left its marks.. I myself was in denial of what was happening, until my mother found bruises and biting marks on my arms. From there I’ve gone through many processes with myself.
I’ve been so fortunate to met a wonderful man who is supportive, loving and understanding. After a major breakdown I managed to tell him about the abuses, and he says he understands that I need time to regain trust and that it’s ok that there are certain things/actions that trigger feelings and reactions from the past.
But even though he knows about it, I am still struggeling with very low self-asteem, self-doubt, angsiety and the fear that he will one day realise what a wreck I am inside, that I’m probably more broken that he understands, and that he eventually will leave one me for someone who has an easier past.
Not only do I find to it genuinely difficult to trust my new partner sexually, intimately, emotionally and verbally (I seem to think that I need it to be confirmed 10 times more than necessary, but I don’t tell him this). I’m realising that I regard myself as no longer worthy of love – proper, unconditional love, and this is what I find most hurtful of all.
I don’t know what to do, whom to talk to or how to talk to my partner about it so he understands me, without thinking that I’m being completely irrational.
I never imagined abuse would be so hard to deal with.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] September 18, 2015 at 10:10 am
I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been through such difficult times. It really sounds to me that you need some support to help you process and work through the difficult thoughts and feelings you have been left with. I know it can be hard to trust again, but please consider going to see a counsellor specialised in dealing with abuse. They will be able to help you get some perspective on the painful doubts and anxieties you mentioned, and hopefully also work with you to develop safe ways to be intimate with your partner – emotionally and physically.
You demonstrate remarkable insight into how your experiences have affected you so profoundly, which leads me to believe that deep down you know that those thoughts you are having are just that: thoughts; not facts. Self- and other-judgements that have come about as a result of your recent experiences. With guidance it *is* possible to move through and not be so affected by these.
Unfortunately I can’t help you find a counsellor as it looks like you are in Europe. We are based in Australia, and I simply don’t know how it works where you are. But I thank you for sharing your story, Melissa.. and I wish you the best.
Comment by George
George October 15, 2015 at 7:41 am
I have been together with my wife for over 20 years. Love-making was fine for the first few years; however, we did struggle a bit with differences in libido (mine was higher). Gradually, I noticed that she would distance herself in subtle ways after making love. With time, it was more noticeable for me and about 8 years ago I pointed it out to her. She denied it at first but came to realize it herself and sought therapy. It was during one of the sessions with me as a participant that it came out that she was molested by her step-father with her mother in the room. When I asked why she did not inform me of this when we first met, she said she was confused about the whole thing and did not think it was important to do so. We have struggled with our intimacy ever since. She will try to make love often but 99% of it will be with very little passion. She wold much rather hold and be held. This is fine at times but I go through periods when I am quite resentful and confused. I take marriage quite seriously so I find it crazy to leave a person that you love very much. The more connected I am with her, the more I crave some passion and not just hugging and intercourse. This has gone on for so long (lots of baggage) that I wonder if it is possible to work through this. My wife says that she has made much progress in dealing with her past; however, it has not translated to any positive changes in our intimacy. As we go through these cycles of feeling OK and not, I feel I am wearing down and no longer am doing this with the hope of finding a resolution. Instead, I find myself doing whatever she wants with regards to intimacy and placing my needs on the back-burner. I know this is not the way it should be but I have run out of ideas. Thanks.
Comment by Mary
Mary October 30, 2015 at 8:23 pm
I am beginning a relationship with an adult survivor of abuse. He has had therapy and I hope to have a healthy sexual relationship. He seems very interested in moving to a deeper level. How can I best manage this? I am aware that he has in the past engaged in sex to prove his manhood, but I am very strong in believing that intimacy is key to pleasure, that all things that consensual adults want is fun and part of growing towards a deeper relationship. I am torn between simply modeling this behavior or actually talking about this with him prior to the beginning of any sexual intimacy. He has been very respectful of my boundaries, while strongly indicating his interest.
Comment by Huuvola
Huuvola November 2, 2015 at 1:52 am
My husband (now 45) was sexually abused by the day care provider as a toddler/young child. He slaps me away if I reach for his genitals, does not allow oral sex (giving or receiving), and rarely engages me sexually. I’m feeling rejected. It feels like he’s having an affair! The few times we do have intercourse he jumps up immediately after, dresses, and leaves the room.
Time? Space? Communication? Is it me?! He refuses to talk about it, or talk about what could be done different on my part… I love him dearly but I’m torn between feeling cheated on, rejected, or sympathy.
Comment by Mel
Mel November 5, 2015 at 4:49 pm
My boyfriend (well now ex-boyfriend) of ten months recently told me he was sexually abused by his older brother. In the same breathe, he told me he loved me for the first time. Things between us have been fraught for the last couple of months, a lack of intimacy and him distancing himself from me. When I confronted him about it, this is when he told me. Things started to go wrong between us when his brother came to visit . He had told me previously that as children they didn’t get on, but he really wanted to improve their relationship.When his brother was over, he was mean and extremely childish and didn’t take to me at all. My ex-boyfriend then became really withdrawn and depressed and distance himself from me.
Three weeks now after the revelations, my ex has come to me and told me he’s leaving and has to get away for a few months and isn’t in a good place to be in a relationship – so wants us to be over. He says he loves me too much for that. I also found out that the day before he told me, he had been cheating on me with another girl.
What can I do? There seems to be a constant pattern in his life of running away from relationships and life in general and I just want to get him help and be there to support him.
Comment by Carol
Carol December 29, 2015 at 4:26 pm
Similar story just recently happened to me. However, not having any prior experience and very little knowledge of issues these men face, I felt totally blindsided and rejected when he ended things in a text of all things. He can not even bring himself to not only face me, but not even a conversation. Totally cut me out. Okay, I am talking about a 53 year old man, not a guy in his twenties. He told me about his abuse but I believed him when he said it didn’t affect his every day life. Well…3 divorces, no therapy, and not allowing oral sex on himself should have been my big red flag, but he was gentle, kind and I liked so many things about him and us that I guess I just didn’t want to see it. Anyway…I’m told its a blessing and this whole thing would have been way over my pay grade but I am still raw, hurt, angry, confused and mostly just sad. I’m still trying to process this experience and at same time move on. It does feel like I am collateral damage. So sad that someone ruined a good man…
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] February 5, 2016 at 1:16 pm
It sounds like such a tough situation for you both. I’m so sorry you’ve been hurt. I’m hearing that you want to support your ex-partner through this, or to get him help, however it doesn’t sound like he is willing to accept this from you at this time.
Ultimately the decision is up to him.
My advice would be to take care of yourself – do things that build your own resilience and coping after these difficulties. I know it’s hard to hear, but sometimes all we can do is accept that, even though we really want to, we can’t fix other people. That’s up to them.
Best of luck.
Comment by Dave sams
Dave sams May 5, 2017 at 7:15 am
You have just described me. I am 53 now and I have always been f….. Up. As I was abused as a boy. I have decided now to get therapy as I feel sorry for my wife I don’t know how she puts up with me, she knows I was abused but she does not know what goes on in my head ,knowone does so I am looking for a therapist before it’s too late. I hope you get to be happy
Comment by Mom
Mom November 9, 2017 at 1:27 am
Hi Dave & everyone,
I am the mother of a young adult son, who recently shared with me that he was sexually abused by his older brother when he was a child. My heart has been crushed for my youngest son. My feelings for my eldest son, range from shock, resentment, heartbreak, among others, as I now suspect he was abused by someone first then did this to his little brother. My stomach is sick every single day since I was confided in because I don’t know what to do to help him ( them)& I want to do every single thing possible to help my youngest son first & then my eldest son.
My question is, what can I, as his mother, do to help him heal? He said he wants to heal but gets overwhelmed by anxiety, PTSD, and depression when these old memories flood his mind. He has used substances to get away from these memories, and to sleep. He has had sleeping trouble, & stomach aches since a young age (the doc & I thought it was related to his father’s constant yelling in our home, we divorced over it) but now, I know this was only part of it. He feels like he is drowning & has no hope of being free of this awful experience he says.
Are there some books I can read that would help me help him? I want to help in any way I can to help him be successful, happy & in a loving marriage when that time comes. If I could afford counseling, I would do that for him every week…. Please, any suggestions would be so very much appreciated. Thank you, I will be praying for us all, and for comfort & healing to those who have been abused. God bless you
Comment by Megan
Megan December 29, 2015 at 5:42 pm
Hi. I was in two abusive relationships this past year and it was all sexual abuse. I have kept many of my feelings and what happened inside and I haven’t told anyone. However, this has been proving to be quite the struggle. I want to be able to tell my parents but I just don’t know how to bring it up to them as they did not know I was sexually active with these partners. Also, I am currently with the most wonderful man who cares about me so much but I have been struggling when it comes to intimacy with him.
I guess I have two questions:
1.) How can I bring up my sexual abuse stories to my parents?
2.) What can I do to feel better about being intimate with my partner?
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Comment by anon
anon February 5, 2016 at 8:37 am
When I was 5 years old I was molested by a 65 year old man for years. When I was 17, i lost my virginity by being raped by a man I had met hours before.
I have only had intercourse twice in my life, including the time I was raped. I am 27.
I avoid dating and I avoid men. I am horrified of sex and probably more horrified of a man finding out how sexually unappealing I am due to my abuse.
I do not know how to move forward. Any and all advice would be very much appreciated. Thank you.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] February 5, 2016 at 11:08 am
I’m so sorry this happened to you Anon. Please know that none of this was your fault. Please know that you are not alone. Please know that your experience do NOT make you unappealing.
The fact that you are reaching out for support shows that you are on the way to moving forward from this. Remember that moving on doesn’t happen all at once; it happens one day at a time, and this is one more step.
It looks like you are in the USA. I’d like to suggest giving RAINN‘s National abuse hotline a call on 1800 656 HOPE – they can give you confidential guidance, support and further referral.
Best of luck Anon, and take care of yourself on this journey.
Comment by Thomas
Thomas March 31, 2016 at 12:48 am
I’m in a relationship where my partner was sexually abused at age 9 for about 5 years. We have been together for 19months and recently engaged, she is 34 years old. She does have flashback and once in awhile has night mares. She has a hard time trusting and believing me, she is an awesome person. I tell her all the time how much I love her and how great she is. She thinks negative about herself. She used to tell me she loved me all the time and texted me through the day and that stopped about 1year into our relationship. 3 weeks ago she had a break down and asked me to move out so she could figure herself out and try and figure out if her feelings are real for me. But after 4 days she realized she still wants to marry me and she does love me, but is having difficult time understanding herself. She did start seeing a therapist and has gone twice now. I can see her struggles everyday and she does a good job of putting on a happy face. I guess my question is, do most women who have been sexually abused as a child go through confusion about there feelings towards there partner? and is this a stage that will pass? Is this a good stage for her to be in?
Comment by Kate
Kate April 3, 2016 at 2:24 pm
My partner was abused as a child. We have the most amazing emotional and spiritual intimacy. But it is as though that is a trigger for his memories. He is able to perform in more sexually exploitive circumstances with other women – but our relationship is stagnate (or moving backward due to the lack of intercourse). I’m not sure what to do; without losing our connection
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] April 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm
Thank you for reaching out. I’m hearing how difficult this is for you and how you don’t want to lose your partner. If you’ve explored this site at all, you know that you are not alone.
And you needn’t go through this alone. It looks like you are in Australia – this means we are able to help you directly. We provide counselling not only to men who have experienced sexual abuse, but also to their partners. Please consider getting in touch with us to explore your situation with one of Living Well’s counsellors, who may be able to help and are there to support you through this.
Our page Information for partners – relationship challenges may also have some helpful tidbits for you.
I wish you the best.
Comment by Bumblebee
Bumblebee April 17, 2016 at 10:23 am
Hi, I don’t really know how to go about this. I was abused by my uncle when i was younger. I am a female, and I’m 19 years old. I lost my virginity a couple months after turning 18, I didn’t have an orgasm. I read about it online and talked to my friends about it and they all said that was normal because it was my first time. The first time I had sex was with a guy who wasn’t really special I didn’t want a relationship with him, it just happened you know? And at the time I really wasn’t the relationship type I genuinely had no interest in guys. I didn’t feel attracted to them. Then, I met this guy and everything I had ever thought about relationships changed. I actually felt attracted to him, and it just felt different I don’t even know how to explain it but it feels like this is why i never got with anyone else. I was waiting for him.
We have now been together for 7 months and it’s awesome really. It never feels like a drag its so effortless. Our sexual life is amazing, it’s very active. Yet i have never been able to orgasm vaginally. He gets there every time, and i know that it is normal for men, its much easier for them to orgasm. The only reason why I’m even here is because after the first time we had sex its like a blindfold was removed, and i was able to remember everything my uncle did. I remember i would cry because i felt uncomfortable but he would keep going. I remember he would do it to me and my sisters and would say we were playing hide and go seek. I hadn’t thought about this in so long and all of a sudden i can remember everything.
The only reason i grew the strength to write about this is because i’m no longer able to orgasm even while i masturbate. it’s not enough anymore. At the beginning i would get frustrated because i felt like i was letting my boyfriend down because i wasn’t able to get there. it hasn’t ruined our sex life, on the contrary i love having sex. I began enjoying the experience rather than focusing on the end goal. I am ALWAYS so close to have having an orgasm while we have sex but its as if it goes away like I’m not able to fully get there.
I have this feeling that the reason i cant get there is because i was abused because i’ve tried so many things and read so many articles. The more i think about the more i get frustrated because it’s not fair that we have to live with this the rest of our life.
So basically I’m writing to see if anyone who reads this can provide with any advice. Things I can do, links to what i can read. I am seriously open to anything!!
Overall this isn’t affecting my relationship, it’s affecting me. He doesn’t know i was abused. I’ve only ever told two people and now i guess all of you. Should i tell him.
How was your experience telling your partners. Because i dont know if i should say anything just yet..
Comment by Emma
Emma November 27, 2016 at 5:19 am
i’m so glad that you’ve found him, you sound happy together:)
maybe you’ve already tried this but what helped me finally have an orgasm with my partner was bringing a vibrator into our sex life. also letting him perform oral sex on me (i used to not want to because it just felt too intimate but im glad i did because it really helps).
anyways, it’s completely your decision whether or not you want to tell him about the abuse. i think it would help you to be able to trust him more and that could help re: sex as well. i don’t know if you’re having flashbacks/panic attacks/etc during sex but it’s really nice when your partner knows so you can stop and they understand why.
best of luck,
Comment by Amy
Amy April 26, 2016 at 1:43 am
My husband was brought up in a family where no love was shown, dad drank heavily and mom had no real connection with the world around her. She kept to her self her son my husband had to fend for himself. He is very independent and has very little interest in life or other people. Some how we connected and we married, and that was a terrible mistake because after 49 years he has done every thing his own way. He and I only had sex and intimacy maybe half dozen times. He hated it and what sex was all about, he never wanted kids which was my big dream. He didn’t want kids to grow up like him. So he curled up in a shell refused sex,, doctors help, and lived for himself I was never included in any thing. Now in our early 70s and doesn’t matter any more. Lived a whole life but never had a life.
Comment by Lisa
Lisa April 26, 2016 at 8:39 pm
I have just left a relationship due to a problem my partner had with intimacy. He could never initiate sex, would always be incredibly nervous, break down and cry, struggle to look at me or compliment me incase it led to sex. Sometimes ‘sex’ would work but even then he just didn’t seem involved/interested. I became incredibly insecure and questioned everything about myself physically. Was it me? Was he emotionally attracted to me but not physically? At first he led me to believe it was me but after many months he then told me something had happened to him when he was a child which could be a reason he was so fearful of intimacy.
I begged him to seek help but he refused… He said it wouldn’t work and wouldn’t talk about his problem. For me….had my partner spoken to me about it more and looked for help I would probably still be with him now. It makes me so sad as he was so kind …. supportive…. caring.
Whilst I understood it was incredibly difficult for him…. his problem was starting to destroy me. I just wish I was either stronger or he would have talked to me more and tried to get help.
Comment by K
K May 9, 2016 at 12:56 am
Hi, my case is a little or maybe a lot different; for years I had tried to help a friend who grew up abused, and when she moved cities away in our early teens, things got worse, she wound up raped, on the streets, on drugs, lying and using people, incapable of keeping friends aside from me who did not see her on a regular basis, she even became a prostitute. At 20 she got pregnant and married another abusive guy like her parents, she lost the baby because of abuse, and my family was always trying to get her out of that home.
Fast forward, I wound up now with a guy who is sweet, caring, compassionate, and really into hugs and sex. When he met her he wanted to help just as much as I and 9 months ago she let us. However, her past caught up with her I guess and turned her into the monster she experienced because her first night in my house I went to bed early because I had to work but my big hearted boyfriend stayed up with her because she was emotional and drinking. I wondered while lying in bed if she would try anything because she’d made sexual comments about him in the past, but I trusted him so I went to sleep. While they were alone and talking he had no idea what to say to the things she told him and he kept giving her hugs while she cried and she decided he was coming on to her, she grabbed his hand forced it to her chest, and then started groping his genitals, when he tried to pull away she pulled him back, and my man refuses to hit a woman so he felt very trapped, and he pushed her off of him and nearly ran to the other side of the room where she told him not to tell me. Instead he unmediately came upstairs crying because he was afraid I wouldn’t believe him (and that that kind of thing happened once before where a friend of his girlfriend’s came onto him and then told the girlfriend that it was him and she never believed him and lost the relationship). The next day while I was still in shock, she agreed that she had done those things but as the shock wore off and I started to get angry she changed her story and began blaming him. My boyfriend didn’t want her kicked out and left on the street but now he felt uncomfortable in our own home, she lasted exactly 2 days after the incident (on our anniversary) before I was like you can go to a woman’s shelter, i arranged a ride with the family member of mine that she was actually in a relationship with (and yes still married to her abusive husband) to get her out of there, at that point I didn’t care where she went I just wanted her gone.
He felt upset too because it seemed that all my family who knew were focusing on how I was betrayed by this person I had been friends with for so many years, not on his trauma and feelings on the event. He eventually found someone to talk to in my mom who’d been abused as a child and who warned him that for awhile he might feel perfectly fine and then for no reason something could trigger the feelings of violation at the worst time, and now that’s what’s happened. He still wants to have intimate playtime moments where I play with him to some crazy elaborate and impossible fantasy to feel somewhat comfortable with the idea of any other woman other than me (I believed him so thankfully he never lost his feeling safe and trusting me), he gets uncomfortable sitting next to other female friends of mine and has taken time to try to feel okay with that again, but sex which used to happen a crazy amount of time since we both have high sex drives, has dwindled to maybe twice a week for the past few months, which used to be okay when I could work off the extra aggressions with working out but I am now injured and can’t even put weight on my knee (laying down is fine) and when he chooses intimate playing and getting off over sex, even when I try not to, I feel rejected, like he wants those fantasies more than me. He does have more mood swings and he gives so many less hugs now. He finally admitted the sex issue is related to the assault and that he has so many feelings of violation, like a huge part of him is missing, that he has anger and wants her to feel the way he does, but also regret like he should have just come to bed that night. And I’m dealing with trying to cope with the anger and yes hate that I feel every time I see him cry because of what she did, someone who was supposed to be a friend to both of us. I suffer from migraines chronically too so I’m prone to bouts of depressions so even though I’m logically trying to be strong for him, to understand, I have moments when I fail, and I don’t know how to deal with it. He thus far does not want to go to therapy and honestly we can’t really afford it. Any help you have to offer would be greatly appreciated.
Comment by tj
tj May 9, 2016 at 10:18 am
my wife was sexually abused by her father as a child. she and I have been married since 1988 and we have two adult children. our daughter is married but our son still lives home. for the first 20+years i thought we had a pretty good sex life only to find out within the last couple year that she was only giving me what she thought i wanted. now at age 55 and years on antidepressants she has lost all interest in sexual contact of any kind. she halted our sex life with no warning or discussion. The other day i took off all my clothes and sat in the living room hoping to spark discussion with no success . I have also noticed she is incredibly self conscious and uncomfortable being without clothes. even in her own bedroom she will cover herself a towel while drying her hair. i want her learn to be comfortable with her body. i want to help he escape the bonds sexual abuse but i dont know how.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] May 9, 2016 at 3:41 pm
Thanks for reaching out, sharing your story and seeking information and support. That all tells me how important your wife is to you, how much this affects you, and how much you want to help.
As I’m sure you’re aware, there is no linear process for recovering from childhood sexual abuse. We are a website that tackles the issue of male sexual abuse, however there is information out there that may be of help to you.
SECASA’s Handbook for partners of women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse has quite a bit of info.
Adult survivors of child sexual abuse has information about the long term impacts and recovery process which may assist in understanding the difficulties you’re both experiencing.
This information for family and friends is a bit more general but may also be of help.
Finally I’d like to point out how important and helpful counselling for partners of people who experienced childhood sexual abuse can be. This is taking its toll on you as well, and you don’t have to go through it alone. Talking to someone may help you explore options as well as your feelings about it all.
Couple’s counselling can provide a safe space for you to talk with each other about your needs, expectations, fears and hopes, and I can’t recommend it enough. (That link goes to our close partners at Anglicare Mental Health & Family Wellbeing, but if you’re not local please consider looking around for a relevant service).
Best of luck to you both, TJ.
Comment by Francesca
Francesca May 18, 2016 at 10:25 pm
I met a man over a year ago. We hit it off in so many ways, it was like he was the missing piece I had been looking for for years. He was passionate, caring beyond words and just seemed to get me. We were both seeing other people yet he would drive miles out of his way to see me just for a few minutes. We had a couple of very passionate encounters, no sex but this man made me weak at the knees. It was like he was sent from heaven to heal me. He could switch me on with a simple touch and light a fire in me that had never burned before and he would compliment me with the most beautiful words. We talked all of the time about various things. He is the most amazing father, son, cousin, grandson and brother and goes out of his way to please people. After a few months his other relationship came to an end and he was still around for me all of the time. I felt like he was the one, I am so blessed to know him.
Out of the blue he messaged me saying he had to tell me something personal. I said he shouldn’t feel obliged but he wanted to. He told me he was abused as a child. I felt honoured that he trusted me and I listed whilst he explained a brief outline to what happened.
We had another passionate kiss a few weeks later but then after he put a stop to this. We still talked every day and shared hugs but it’s like he decided to switch his passion. off. I knew I had fallen in love with this man and separated from my partner anyway as knowingly heart was elsewhere was to dishonest.
It is now nearly a year later since our last encounter. We still talk every day, we go out for days together with our children and he is a key part of my family life. He is proud that my children Iike him and it makes him happy that his girls like me. People can’t believe that we are just friends as we spend so much time together. People I know have even asked of he isy husband. I feel that he is scared to get close to me and he is building a wall between us. He knows how I feel about him but he won’t open up to me anymore and now looks like a lost boy full of guilt whenever I see him. For a long time I felt so hurt and I would cry a lot but now I am trying to just be there and let him know that I still care. He used to be so full of compliments but now he holds back and I feel he is physically keeping me at arms length but does not want to let me go. It’s like I’m being tested to see if I will walk away. I can’t work out of he feels guilty for my split with the father of my children or if it’s to do with his abuse. My gut tells me it’s a combination of the two. I love him dearly, I want to just hold him and make him see that I will never hurt him but inside I am hurting so much.
Comment by Em
Em May 24, 2016 at 4:25 am
I was sexually abused by a distant family relative for about 5 years ( between ages of about 9 and 14). I am 28 years old now and have never had an intimate relationship with anyone and dont know if I ever will at this point. I don’t trust men at all and have spent my whole life isolating myself as a means of protection, but now the wall I put up to protect myself has become my prison cell. I would love nothing more than finding someone who loves me and to have a family, but I don’t know how to trust people or how to even think about changing how I feel.
Comment by Chloe
Chloe May 28, 2016 at 9:35 am
I have been married to my husband for 30 years and found out about 7 years ago from a counsellor that my husband had been sexually abused as a child. Even after 20+ years he hadn’t had the courage to tell me himself and when she was due to see me to tell me he was at the same time trying to contact her to stop her as he had changed his mind and didn’t want me to know. .
My husbands father was an ‘in the closet’ gay man, who married pretty much for show. His mother was not explicitly emotional and the abuse, as far as I know, happened on one occasion.
Whilst I have every sympathy for my husband and can see how the abuse has impacted on his life, I feel devastated when I consider the impacts it has had on our relationship. Indeed, if I consider spending the rest of my life with him, in this same way, I despair.
My husband does not desire me. My husband, whilst he tells me he loves me avoids talking about anything emotional, and if I express any emotion he us quick to suggest a practical solution to shut me up.
Throughout our marriage my self esteem has hit rock bottom. I am now overweight and do very little to self care or make an effort because I can’t bear the feelings of rejection when I do make the effort. When I tell him how I feel, which I have done countless times, he says all the right things at the time and then either doesn’t act on them or merely pays lip service.
I have read the earlier response of the lady of 70years who has lived throughout her whole life in this situation and ended up with no children and a lifetime of regrets. To her and to myself I would say if your partner is not prepared to work towards change for the sake of the relationship then cut your losses. Whilst I know these are good people and change is frightening for them, I also know personally of the terrible effects of disconnection, rejection and low self worth to the partners who stays with them
Please can you give me any references to literature pertinent to understanding the responses of males to their partners. Also iif any male survivors feel brave enough please please help me and many others to understand how your responses can make us feel so lonely, and what we could do to support help and assist in the recovery
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] June 10, 2016 at 12:25 pm
Thanks for reaching out for some help.
I’m hearing you’re feeling really distant from your husband, and I’m definitely getting a sense of hopelessness from your comment.
It seems you were hurt that your husband was afraid to tell you about the abuse. Please know that your husband is not alone in keeping the abuse to himself for many, many years; this is actually more common than not. There are myriad barriers that men face to disclosing sexual abuse, and it is in no way a reflection on you.
As to the rest of your comment, I would agree with you and say yes, it is up to you both to work towards improvement in your relationship. The first step is to be clear with your partner about your needs and expectations, and that you are willing to make a commitment to meeting theirs as well. See Developing intimacy in a relationship for some practical tips that might help.
You mentioned he avoids talking about anything emotional, so perhaps our page on Men, emotions and sexual abuse may help you to understand what he might be experiencing. Many people also find our Information for partners page useful.
Finally, some men have indeed had the strength and courage to share some thoughts and advice for partners.
I hope that helps a bit Chloe. Please take care of yourself throughout all this.
Comment by Kymmie
Kymmie July 12, 2016 at 10:05 pm
Hi, my husband of 10 yrs and I are having problems with communication and sexual intimacy. To be honest its been our whole marriage. And really became a problem after our first son was born. He suffered for 3 yrs before telling me he was giving up when I finally told him I had been sexually abused since I think about 4-8yrs old. I was made to perform sexual acts as well as receive and I was told all good little girls did this but it had to be secret. My husband and I split up for awhile but he supported me with getting me to a counsellor and being there while I finally spoke out loud about it. After my son was born I had flashbacks everyday and especially during sex. I couldnt leave him alone with anyone and I become very untrusting of my husband with our son when I had no reason to be. So I know his birth was the catalyst for me to finally deal with this trauma. Counselling was good and I slowly felt safe again. My husband and I got back together and welcomed another son. My husband is much more understanding of my needs and knows now that there are particular things he must not say or do whilst we are having sex. He knows that if i grab his hair and feel his head then i am uncomfortable and trying to resolve any unsafe feelings by knowing its him. Unfortunately I’m not as cured as I hoped to be and I still do have flashbacks occasionally during sex. And I battle other emotions like feeling guilty when it feels good. Or confused when I cant get in the mood. I also struggle to talk about my feelings and communicating anything deeper than the daily activities. Its gotten to the point again where he is feeling defeated like I dont love him or care for him because I wont open up and offer any of my wants and needs.
Recently he has opened up about sexual fantasies and toys etc. This terrifies me but understanding he could never be a dominant with me I became it. It helped alot but I have do reluctant to try again and I dont know why. The toy idea makes me feel, for want of a better word, icky.
I want to be able to fulfill my husbands wants and needs but I’m struggling to make sense of my emotions and verbalise anything. I can’t help but feel that if I say something out loud then thats it. Its true and its fact and I cant take it back.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. The article, the first one I’ve ever bought myself to read, was great.
Comment by Reginald
Reginald August 12, 2016 at 7:52 am
I (25yo male) was repeatedly molested by an older male cousin beginning at a very young age (I believe 3 or 4) and continuing until I was in my very late teens. I can’t remember or have blocked out my first sexual experience. I feel that it’s important to note that the abuse was not consistent but occurred randomly whenever our families were together. (A few times a year)
I wasn’t fully aware – and I am still not sure – of how this has affected me; however, I have difficulty sustaining a healthy long-term sexual relationship.
I am an openly gay man and have only had two serious long-term relationships, both of which have shown signs of dwindling sexual activity. I believe this to be largely due to the abuse I encountered when I was young.
It has only been within the last two years that I’ve started to open up about my abuse and began readily trying to identify the ways it has impacted me and continues to impact my relationship with my fiance.
I am seeking a sexual abuse therapist in my area but would greatly appreciate any recommendations for additional literature that might help me put a name to what I’ve been experiencing.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] August 19, 2016 at 11:30 am
Thanks so much for reaching out to Living Well, and sharing your story. I know that is not easy and want to commend you on your strength in seeking out support and working through your difficulties.
This page was written for partners, so it may be useful for your fiance to have a read.
Pages that may be helpful for you include:
Dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse
Developing intimacy in a relationship
Renovate your relationship
You mentioned you were looking for further reading. We have a page listing some useful books for men overcoming sexual abuse. Please take care while reading, and look after yourself through this process.
Finally, if you are looking for some direct support and counselling, please check out our partners in the US, 1in6.org. They offer online support and may be able to point you to more local assistance.
Let us know if we can be of any further help.
Comment by Sadie
Sadie August 25, 2016 at 3:57 pm
I was abused by my brother for years growing up. I have no idea when it started or when it stopped but it has ruined my life so far. He was not the only one to take advantage of me, in fact there were several of his friends and my friends brothers that did the same thing. The abuse with my brother lasted many years. I have not been able to get close to any man ever in my adult life. I cannot stand to be touched. I have had sex several times over the years but it makes me sick. I regret it every time and feel sick and want to cry. I know what is happening but I try to block it as best I can. I cannot see anything even if my eyes are open. I sometimes feel like I cannot remember if it actually happened or if I imagined it happened. I have found someone I want to be with but am scared to death. I don’t want to run and hide anymore. I want a normal life with someone and do not know how to make it happen and be able to enjoy them and be intimate with them without being repulsed. I know fully what I went through but never was able to stop it from happening. I want to be able to get past this. I have started talking with a therapist about it a little but do not know if I am supposed to keep talking about it and bringing it up or if they should or how to get past it. I just want to be happy with someone someday.
Comment by Reginald
Reginald September 5, 2016 at 10:19 pm
Hello I’m Reggie, I’m a 46yo black male that was molested by my dad’s brother. The molestation started at the age of 7 and stopped at the age of 13 because I started fighting back. The molestation has affected me in so many ways that I just can’t list it all. It almost put a wedge between my relationship with my child because I felt since I stood on my own at the age of 13 they could do the same. I had to come to my senses quickly. The molestation has driven a huge wedge between my wife and I because we both don’t really understand the effects of the situation. To put a dagger into everything, my wife was a victim of molestation as well. Here you have two individual that is dealing with the effects. My wife sex drive is high and mine is very low. I don’t deny my wife sex but it can be a turn off because she wants it all the time. It puts me in the position of being forced to do something I don’t want to do. Sounds familiar doesn’t it (I’m being molested all over again). I would think that she would understand, but that isn’t so. We are on the verge of calling it quits, but is this the solution. Neither of us have had any counseling (sex therapist), but I ask myself will this help? My passion is communication and hers is sex, how can this work? please give me some advice and a local sex therapist in my area…Thanks
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] September 9, 2016 at 11:05 am
Thank you for contacting Living Well, and sharing some of your experiences here. I am sorry to hear that you were molested as a child, and of the resulting impacts on your life – it does sound like you have worked through a lot.
Parenting and intimate partner relationships can be really tricky to navigate at the best of times. One of the challenges when both partners have experienced sexual abuse is that people are affected and respond in different ways, so where one person may find sex difficult at times, another may see sex as a way to connect, let go, feel okay and make up. As I’m sure you’ve noted, people can have really different triggers – reminders leading to feeling overwhelmed, out of control or just ‘zoned out.’ It is very common for sex to trigger some very uncomfortable thoughts and feelings when someone has a history of sexual abuse, not only because it involves engaging in a similar bodily act, but also because it involves, to some degree, feeling exposed and vulnerable.
I see that you made mention that you ‘don’t deny’ your wife sex, but that it puts you in the uncomfortable position of ‘being forced to do something’, which has those connections with sexual abuse. Whilst this situation is familiar and similar to the experience of molestation, I would note that there is a very big difference between now and then: This is something you are choosing to do as an adult. My guess is that it you are making the choice to do this out of love and care for your wife.
The more you can ground your experiences in the present, including sex, the less likely you will be triggered, and the more likely it will work for you. In choosing to engage in sex, it is important to give each of you the opportunity for it to work for you – to be comfortable, enjoyable and meaningful. This might involve talking about position, things you like and don’t like, whether you have the light on or not, whether you talk or engage in particular acts or not. The more you are grounded in the present moment, as the adult that you are, consciously choosing to participate, the less likely you will feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable.
I hear that you are interested in resolving these difficulties and getting some help. From what you have said, and given your willingness to sort this out, I would recommend finding a therapist who has experience in working with sexual trauma, individually and with couples. I would suggest that their experience in working with and addressing trauma responses is more paramount than being a sex therapist. General sex therapy can actually be quite unhelpful where there is a history of sexual abuse.
Our partners in the US, 1in6.org, may be able to help point you towards a good professional with experience in this area. Their Supportline partners with RAINN to provide referrals in your location.
Take care of yourself throughout this process. Best of luck to you Reggie.
Comment by Brayden
Brayden October 14, 2016 at 6:32 am
My girlfriend was raped when she was six, and this article really helped me to understand how she could be feeling. Often times it seems like she doesn’t have problems having sex and other times she will go weeks without wanting to. But overall she has a low sex drive, but I have a really high sex drive and it sometimes really bothers me when she doesn’t have any Interest in having sex. I dont push it cause i really do try to understand how she feels but sometimes I get so sexually frustrated even tho I don’t say anything. I just want to know how i can cope with my sexual frustration without getting frustrated at her somtimes cause i know its not her fault
Comment by Abc
Abc October 26, 2016 at 3:43 am
I always thought it wasn’t a big deal, but whenever my head is spinning and I get frustrated I go on google and read this kinda article, and it makes me feel wierd cuz I always seem to fall picture perfect into these categories. I wonder, is that the reason I do all this? I don’t know. No one I know would have ever guessed I could be so powerless.
But I don’t even think I was a victim, because deep down I know I asked for it. If I didn’t, it woulda never happened. It’s like a craving. But no one else craves it, or the world tells us it’s a fucked up craving, so we believe it and walk around thinking we’re fucked up. But we’re not. We’re the lucky ones. We’re the ones that get this beautiful built in excuse for everything. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The only thing that bothers me in this whole thing is I don’t know if I’m gay or straight, and it’s just killing me inside not to know. I’ve done a lot of experimentation, and everytime i feel straight I think I’m just a gay boy who won’t admit it, and everytime I feel gay I think I’m just a straight boy looking for any form of love. But it’s wierd because at the same time, I’m very hypersexual (not in a healthy way) and both scenarios get me off.
Comment by Heathbar2903
Heathbar2903 October 30, 2016 at 6:17 am
Hi, I’m a 43 year old woman. My father sexually abused and physically abused me violently regularly. My parents were divorced, at home with mom, when she wasn’t being fun, she physically and emotionally abused me as well. The only safe place I had was school or with my nose in a book. I’m writing because I have a delimma. In my heart I dream of marriage and children. However, in my last two serious relationships as soon as the person reached to kiss me or touch me I would freak. One poor guy, I avoided and didn’t talk to for weeks. I’m now afraid of dating. My therapist keeps telling me that once I find the right guy, he and I can go through counseling. Great, but how do I allow myself to date or even be friends with a guy without the terror. I know my fear will ruin it. Any advice is welcome. Thank you.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] December 7, 2016 at 11:59 am
Thanks for getting in touch with us and sharing your story. It is wonderful that you are reaching out and seeking support.
I’m pleased to hear that you are talking to a therapist; that is a big step to take. In thinking about the issues you’ve described though, I wonder if it would be feasible to try working with a therapist who has experience in the areas of childhood abuse and trauma informed care?
After your history of abuse, your experience of fear and terror in relationships with men is completely understandable, and not uncommon. Please know there is hope: We know that it is possible to work through this and to build your sense of safety and comfort when moving towards intimacy.
I think that this might be something you can address now, rather than waiting for ‘the right man.’ You are clearly ready to move forward on this, so why wait?
A therapist should be able to help you to explore the automatic thoughts and feelings that come up for you when you think about getting to know a man. Their role can then be to help you develop strategies that allow you to either 1) cope effectively with these feelings, or 2) be less affected by them.
In the meantime I would like to suggest that you set aside time every day to engage in self care. Self care is any kind of activity or behaviour that builds up your resilience and coping, that is relaxing or enjoyable, or that lets out some of the stress that these difficulties cause. It includes things like diet, exercise, health care, and sleep, but also things like engaging in hobbies, relaxation exercises, fulfilling your life passions, and connecting with others. Some people sometimes this as a frivolous suggestion, but when it comes to recovering from issues like these, I really cannot stress enough how helpful these behaviours are.
Finally, there is a bit more information on improving intimacy on our page Developing intimacy in a relationship. While it is aimed at men (as is our whole site), there are some points that apply to everyone and that may be helpful.
Best of luck to you.
Comment by Nadine
Nadine November 1, 2016 at 9:03 am
thank you all for sharing your stories … you’ve given me the courage to share a little about mine.
For the last year, I’ve been in a relationship with my childhood sweetheart, on and off. We were dating & going steady until intimacy came into the equation. He ended the relationship with me and yet continued to compliment me when he would see me, either in person or by text. This of course left me feeling confused knowing the feelings I have for him and how things ended abruptly. I know the intimacy can be worked on. It’s difficult to discuss because he’s so closed off and runs from every opportunity. I know that he did experience a traumatic sexual encounter and he hasn’t opened up about how it has affected him. I want him to know that he has my love and support and that nothing he could tell me would change how I feel. I want to be there for him as both a friend and a lover, now and forever.
Recently, we were texting each other, it turned sexual and we were both engaging in it. He ended up meeting me at my house after we both got off work. By the time we’re ready for intercoarse, he lost his erection. He wanted to jump up & run out of the room.
Since then, he has allowed me to get close to him a time or two but we haven’t attempted intercourse again.
I do feel like we’re making some progress and some days I feel the regress. I want him to push through whatever it is that he’s fight and at the same time, I don’t want to push him away from me.
Comment by Lanz
Lanz November 19, 2016 at 11:02 am
Hi I wanted to share something that’s been bothering me and screwing up my life, people keep saying that this isn’t bad but it’s traumatised me for certain…here’s what happened, this guy I met who I thought was a nice and respectable guy started acting weird when I was left alone with him in his house…he creeped me out because he kissed me against my
will and I was scared! It didn’t help that afterwards when Mum forced me to go to a party with him after I’d told him, I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him, he was acting like I was, putting his arm around me and touching me when I didn’t want him to!! And now ever since then I’ve hated myself, because I think I was weak, I didn’t speak up to say I didn’t want it at the time because I was too scared and now I’m scared of relationships and I can’t even enjoy imagining sex as myself, I have to imagine myself being a male character to get off and I think it’s because of that asshole, I just want to be normal again and not be frightened of men and be able to be myself again ;-; I’m sorry, I had to rant this somewhere…
Comment by Jay Jay
Jay Jay November 23, 2016 at 3:00 pm
Hello. I got out from heavy mental abusive relationship with physical abuse 2 years ago. I was also physically abused as a teenager before.
The man I was with was very compulsive, always yelling, choking me, hitting me hard and didn’t let me breath till I almost pass out. He was either having an extremely hard and exetremly rough sex or was always pushing me away when I was trying to have a sex with him by saying that he doesn’t want me.
Now when I live alone for 2 years, I meet new man but I can’t get involved with none of them sexually. Doesn’t matter how good man treats me.
Once it comes to a kiss, I just run away.
I decided to just go through sex and see if that’s what I need. I had a sex with a very nice guy. But I do not get turn on at all. All what I was thinking about – is for this man finish faster, and get out. I tried it 2-3 times with the same guy, and in spite on how nice he treats me- I can’t. One night he stayed over- and I couldn’t sleep all night because man was in apartment. I didn’t sleep, I can’t wait till he get out from apartment. I didn’t want he touch me ever again. He left, and I was feeling so bad because I was sitting all night in my living room because i could not even simply lay next to him. I washed all apartment and bed linen and towel after him several times.:-( . When he was at my house (before I was at his place) He was laughing, talking to me and I couldn’t take it- I want only silent around. When someone speaks loud in my place- I get an increasing heart beating.
Before I was always interested in sex, had a very high sex drive.
Now after those relationship, I can’t imagine for man touch me. I have tried to brake it by having sex with a man and it only got emotionally worse.
I don’t want for man touch me, kiss me. I can’t imagine now to get off my clothes and be naked with man. Than closer man get- I begin to feel a panic. I do not feel safe at all.
I find myself more safe being with women. Not sexually but I’m feeling comfortable.
What should I do? I’m pretty enough. I have a lot of nice men asking me to go out- but once I imagine that it will come to a sex part- I feel disgust. I feel like I don’t want for man touch me ever.
I can talk to man. Being in a company with a man. But once it comes to sex- I feel horrible..:-(
I have never been like that before.
What should I do? It bothers me so much because I can’t get sexually involved no more with a man.
Does it mean that I will like that forever? Did this abusive relationship changed my orientation?
I don’t understand why do I feel this way? Why do I reject man so hard?:-( How to fix it??? How????:-(
Comment by T juchemich
T juchemich December 4, 2016 at 11:50 am
I lived in a time where a child was abused for being abused. It is a shame as both my younger brothers are dead from suicide. Roger turned into a murderer and had a sign to tell world his wife was a victim of domestic violence. Duane was a US Marine but couldn’t kill his past and never learn how to live with it. He committed suicide on Christmas and wife and former school teacher tried to sell all his material belongings the same day he died! I continue to try to get help but seem to get misdiagnosed.
Comment by Anonymous
Anonymous December 18, 2016 at 5:16 am
Hi. I’m 18 and about a year ago a classmate of mine sexually assaulted me after getting the wrong hint. But with the help of my boyfriend I learned to control my panic attacks and my best friend and sister were very supportive. However my own boyfriend was raped when he was 14 by a male relative. He’s fine and doesn’t really have any pstd or any symptoms. If he ever got depressed it was because he couldn’t do anything about what happened to me. We’ve been dating for a year now and we do make love but he gets scared a lot. He asks about everything. But he’s always scared and if I encourage him to be himself he still doesn’t feel comfortable. At first I was scared but I trust him now. But sometimes when he’s stressed or depressed he isn’t like himself in bed. He’s very different and forceful and really rough. He’s mostly disassociated and it scares me sometimes. Sometimes when we play rough he just stops because it reminds him or when he pins me to hard or if i cry out loud he starts sobbing. I think it’s because he stills suffers from the trauma but he doesn’t admit it. He told his parents a while ago and almost all the psychological effects have finished. But only in our sex life they remain. I just need to understand how to make him feel like he’s not behaving like a rapist.
Comment by Clare
Clare January 13, 2017 at 2:48 am
My partner was molested by his grandfather as a child, he’s never talked about it loads but I know he had a period of flashbacks in his 20s and it’s obviously still something he deals with. The other night after we’d both been drinking he had anal sex with me while I was unconscious, I came to and we were both shocked and shaken and I felt really betrayed. Now I’m worried that his trauma has created this darkness in him and I’m worried about how it might come out in the future. I want to encourage him to get counseling just in case but am I overreacting?
Comment by Brenton [Living Well Staff]
Brenton [Living Well Staff] March 24, 2017 at 12:20 pm
Hi Clare, thanks so much for posting.
In short, no I don’t think you are over-reacting at all.
The thing is, whilst it is possible that his behaviour that night may have been influenced by being molested as a child, it is not a causal link. My first concern in this situation is how you are coping with the breach of trust. My second concern would be for ensuring this doesn’t happen again. For that to happen it will be important to talk about the situation with your partner.
Be open about your concerns for the future and the level of hurt his behaviour caused you. If you feel this would be too much, maybe you could seek the help of a relationship counsellor. I believe that bringing up your concerns about his childhood abuse is worth doing, however be mindful of not allowing a narrative where he didn’t have control over his behaviour due to his abuse or alcohol use to arise.
Please look after yourself.
Comment by Ronnie
Ronnie February 17, 2017 at 7:34 am
Hello I’m Ronnie.
I am in a relationship with a beautiful man that has experienced the most horrific of childhoods. My love was repeatedly raped by his father from the age of 3 till he was 13. His mother wasn’t there for him and it has slowly eaten away at him. When I met him he was a 48, quietly spoken gentle man who had had many relationships with women that were in their early twenties, all driven by sex. I was nearing 50, had been in a long term relationship, and was looking for a loving relationship for my future.
I knew early on in our relationship that my partner had been sexually abused by his father and I had seen the effects of what had been left behind. The first year of our relationship was very sexually driven by both of us. The last 4 years has been an emotional rollercoaster. His Father died at this time, and since then intimacy has been difficult. He is still the gentleman, very considerate and kind, but a lot is missing in our relationship. He has trouble with intimacy, we sleep in the same bed but only to sleep. Cuddles and kisses but no passion.
He does things that I dont understand. Because we dont have this intimacy I was thinking that because he had had a lot of sexual encounters with young women that he had decided that I wasnt good enough. I went through his phone and found he was talking sexually and talking about me and our relationship to another woman who was in America. He was saying that he wasnt attracted to me. It really crushed me.
I confronted him with this. He said that he had done this for a long time, way before me, and that it didn’t mean anything. he just done this because he didnt know her and he was trying to make himself feel something. apparently he hadnt felt anything for any of his sexual partners over the years, just sexually driven, and with me it was turning into something else and he felt he wasn’t worthy of our relationship., so he needed to play out his emotions.
I love my man so much, but am still totally confused, hurt and dont know where I am in this relationship and what is next in this life for us. I am so jealous of all the women that have come before me because of the way he is now sexually. But I do know that there is a way forward and I am not going to give up on him. We have been through so much together. he is a very complex hidden personality all shaped by his horrific childhood, and I can wait and will be here for him emotionally even though it is hurting me.
Comment by Rose
Rose February 23, 2017 at 5:11 pm
I was raped when I was about ten or eleven. I repressed it and no one every knew. My parents had suspicions and later the man was outed as a child molester. But I didn’t remember the indecent entirely until October 2016 during some intensive therapy sessions. It explains why I have always felt like something was wrong with me. I was really overtly sexual as a teenager, and full of self hatred. But after I got married I really stopped wanting to have sex and so much anger has been coming up. I was doing a lot of therapy last year but I can’t afford it anymore. I can’t seem to want to have sex with my husband. Though I do want to have sex with other men, which I feel guilty for. It hurts to actually engage in intercourse most of the time and I have so much anger. It feels really bad and I lately I seem to be having physical reactions after sex so that my vagina is in pain for some days after. I’m just so ashamed of all this stuff.
The man who sexually abused me as a child was the father of my friend. I knew him well and there was an intimate feeling in the abuse, even though it was very rough and violent at the same time. I feel like that is a big part of what is so hard about intimacy now but I don’t exactly understand it all.
I have this feeling that I just don’t want sexual intimacy. But I do want it at the same time. I wish I had someone to talk to who knew how I feel and could help me to sort through what I’m going through. Are their groups for women in Northern California that you would suggest?
I just feel so much shame and guilt. I’m angry and I’m ashamed and guilty for it. I know I’ve been really angry with my husband so many times, I didn’t really know why before, but now I have more of an understanding and I feel so guilty a lot of the time. I’m afraid I’m not being a good wife at all.
It feels like we might be leaving each other soon and it’s very depressing. Part of me wants to leave, but I’m afraid I’m just running from intimacy and a good thing. There are other issues in our relationship too, but this is one of the main ones.
Everybody’s stories feel so heartfelt and the partners who have shared feel so supportive. This feeling of something being wrong with me is very pervasive. I just thought I’d reach out because sometimes I start to feel hopeless. I think sometimes that if I was just with someone who could do x y z I’d be ok. But I know I need to take responsibility for my actions and my feelings. I just don’t know how to get past this, it feels so big and mysterious and overpowering.
Its terrifying to think that if we did break up then I would have these problems in any future relationships too.
Thanks very much for providing a place to talk about these things,
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] March 3, 2017 at 10:57 am
Thanks so much for opening up and sharing your experiences with us and with our visitors. I think that takes so much courage, and shows a willingness to help others who may be going through this.
I’m so sorry you’ve had this terrible experience, and ongoing difficulties as a result. Please know that you aren’t alone in these struggles. We know that shame is a very common experience that can linger for years after abuse. It can be triggered very easily and is one of the toughest feelings to cope with.
You’ve shown great insight in describing your experience of violence being mixed up with intimacy, and the ongoing effects of this on your relationship. For anyone who has experienced sexual violence, becoming comfortable with intimacy can be difficult. Please don’t blame yourself for this – we have seen over and over how these kinds of push-pull relationships with intimacy can develop as a form of self protection following such a severe abuse of trust.
We do have a page on building intimacy in your relationship. While again the information is aimed primarily at men, many of the tips and strategies apply to anyone.
Unfortunately, as an Australian organisation we can’t refer you to any specific services for women in Northern California. If you haven’t already, please give RAINN a try – this page will list services near you.
Best wishes to you Rose. Take care of yourself through all this.
Comment by Andy
Andy March 13, 2017 at 11:32 pm
My wife was raped when she was 16 and then gangraped when she was 19. Although she says that both experiences were very traumatic and has left her emotionally scarred she has a very high sexual appetite. I have noticed that she likes to be dominated and for the sex to be rough. Although i do enjoy it I sometimes feel guilty that I am in some way making her relive the ordeal or is that the way she views sex? She never received any therapy after the gangrape so I was wondering could that have an effect on the way she views sex now?
Comment by DEZ
DEZ March 14, 2017 at 3:02 am
I know this is more for men who have been sexually abused… I do have questions though because I have had experiences when growing up and am back at the job of working on it.
Background – I was molested – Once when I was 5 it was my earliest memory, Once when I was 8 and when I was 15 off and on by a trusted family friend. None of it was rape, if it had been I would have pressed charges, also because there would be physical evidence however I find that I am picking up the pieces as an adult but am vigilant in doing this and it has gotten better and better. I place full ownership of the blame on them, they were older men, it is their fault entirely end of story… I am proud of the progress I have made, because for a time it turned me into a real man hater and it took years to realize not all men were freaks even though the initial experiences were and actually some men are for the rights and liberty of women which at first was not comfortable to be honest, it forced me to not put them into the pervert box and consider them… did get over most of that.
What I am working on now is developing better relationships and possibly romantic.
Question – I find when I develop a reasonably close relationship and the conversation leads me to believe they could handle the info they have difficulty, why do relationships fall apart when I mention it to some people? It does leave me vulnerable…. what advice would you give for disclosing to people?
Question – I am more interested in possibly pursuing a romantic relationship however when things go that way a blanket of confusion and panic hits, like I can’t breath. Any advice here please? Also I do tend to flat-line… I will be interested in someone sexually but when the reality hits I flat-line in a sexual way… why is this and what can I do?
Please any insight would be appreciated. Thanks
Comment by Reggy
Reggy April 5, 2017 at 8:21 am
Join the club!
I’m a 24 year old man who was molested at age 8 by one woman, and groomed for sex by 2 or 3 other women, depending on how you define grooming.
Never been in a relationship, except I guess for 1 day back when I was twelve. I am incapable of trusting women, and sex is a no-go because I’m very sensitive anyways and the idea of trusting a woman to not laugh at me or humiliate me when I’m vulnerable is terrifying.
Ironically I have a lot in common with the man-haters, except from the other side of the aisle. Though at least you have the privilege of being approached by men, whereas I’m out of luck unless I put myself out there, so it’s swings and roundabouts.
I will say that the points describing normal sex vs sexual abuse are compelling, and I think I will write them down for whenever I become extremely depressed.
My entire experience of sexuality can be summed up as follows:
Ugly, brutal, humiliating, terrifying, disgusting, exploitative, autonomous, painful, shameful..
The list goes on.
So trying to constantly reinforce the other, positive beliefs about sexuality has helped a lot, because they are the beliefs I want to believe are true as well. Even in my most positive future fantasies (nice home, loving wife, a bunch of noisy, messy kids to chase around) I would imagine sex as a kind of dirty obligation to keep the “engine” oiled rather than something to draw and bind a man and wife together.
I think writing about it helps, even if it’s just to yourself, like in a diary. It helps you keep a clear train of thought and stops you from falling into endless black holes and loops.
Comment by DEZ
DEZ April 6, 2017 at 2:19 am
Thanks for the understanding it is good to touch base. I am looking for real answers and am looking to climb the mountain and get over it. A journal may be good though, I am looking for ways to build self worth which has deteriorated but am building it up, after all it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them and their unfinished business and their virus of low self worth which I have somehow caught. I am confident it will happen and I will get over things but in the meantime am scouring every crevice in order to cancel my subscription to depression…. anyone having ideas, suggestions etc… bring it on I’m open to it.
Comment by Anon
Anon March 30, 2017 at 6:22 am
Reading through some of the above has resonated with me, I was in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive same sex relationship. The sex was void of any intimacy, and I felt like I was an object to be used at her whim to meet her demands. It felt like I had no autonomy over my own body, and sex was something she demanded and I submitted to, as a means to keep the peace, my giving in to her demand for sex was a condition to me being able to: leave the bedroom; prepare food; have a bath; clean my teeth; leave the house or go to work. Writing this, and reading the above highlights how much it was about her efforts to exercise power and control over me. It has taken me four years to even being to understand what happened, and to be able to describe or label it as some form of sexual assault/trauma is even more difficult.
Reading through the horrific experiences of other posts, makes me feel uncomfortable in describing myself as a victim of any kind of sexual assault, and I feel as though this is complicated by the fact that I was not violently assaulted, and I ‘gave in’ ‘submitted’ to her demands, and whilst what happened to me is minuscule in comparison to others experiences, I am beginning to recognise I was coerced and at the very least in could be described as unwanted sexual contact. My protests about not wanting to engage in sexual activity at any moment were quickly disregarded, and the ‘punishment’ I received for not giving in to her demands was as above, or her violent outburst where she would destroy property in the house, and threaten us both. It was easier to give her what she wanted and for us all to remain safe.
I have been out of the relationship for a number of years now, and whilst I recognised the relationship as being abusive very early on, even when I was still within it, it is only now that I am beginning to acknowledge that she was also sexually abusive too. It is apparent when I look to try to establish some kind of a future, that the repercussions of this are ongoing, I am so anxious about any kind of sexual contact that in a club recently when someone made a relatively innocent advance on me I was overwhelmed with fear and loathing, I just do not want to be touched, and I do not want to have any kind of sexual contact with anyone. I want to move on and have a partner, but am finding this difficult given my reluctance to have any kind of sexual relationship with anyone.
Comment by Kathy
Kathy April 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm
wow that sounds awful. I think you need to reconnect with your feelings and acknowledge that it was horrible. the big thing is to learn to trust yourself again. take it very slow. start out with just friends with dates… build trust with them.
easier said that done but go at your own pace. there is no hurry.
Comment by Ryan
Ryan May 12, 2017 at 5:01 am
I’m an 18 year old male who was molested when I was 6 by another male. I’ve recently joined therapy because of my depression and anxiety but thought that’s all it was. After talking to my therapist, general practitioner, and psychiatrist we’ve concluded that it was ptsd. That being said, I just recently opened up about it because I was getting sexually harassed at work, which triggered a massive panic attack and manic phase. Because of that I finally told my parents about my past. The whole reason I decided to share my experience on here, was because I’m in a relationship, and can’t have intercourse with my girlfriend. I originally thought it was just the anxiety or my testosterone was low. But tests showed other wise, and we’ve pin pointed it to ptsd from sexual abuse. I don’t know what my next Step should be because it’s starting to ware on our relationship. And it seems as if my doctors aren’t sure what to do either.
Comment by Goldele Rayment
Goldele Rayment May 30, 2017 at 1:03 am
I’m in a relationship with a man who experienced sexual abuse at a young age, as well as emotional abuse. I’m also a survivor, and after many years of therapy I’m in a pretty good place. We have been together for about 3 years and for at least 2 we have had almost no sexual relationship. When I started trying to bring it up or find some options he started having severe dissociative episodes. He kept delaying getting treatment until I almost left late last year and he was falling apart. He is finally seeing a psychologist he likes, for the last six months, and has found great benefit in a self help group, but things have not changed between us. I know it takes time but it’s so hard. My psychologist and psychiatrist seem to have no helpful advice for me on how to cope with this situation, which causes me so much heartache. I have no idea how long this could take or what to expect. I’ve personally never avoided sex, I was the opposite. I’m no longer compulsive with my sexual acting out, I just want to be close to my partner. Please, it hurts so much and I just don’t know what to do to cope with this or how long I should wait for things to start getting better. He says he believes things will, but he doesn’t know how to start or when. Surely there must be someone who can guide me at least a little.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] June 7, 2017 at 4:43 pm
Thanks for reaching out and sharing your experiences here.
I’m getting from your message how much you care for your partner and want to support him through his experiences, and through the time it might take him to work through his history of sexual and emotional abuse. I’m also hearing how hard it has been for you up until now, and in an ongoing sense, particularly in relation to the uncertainty around how long it will take for your partner to feel comfortable being intimate with you. It can be so frustrating and painful to want so much to be close to someone who is simply not in a place to meet those needs for and with you.
Unfortunately there is no easy answer. Each person’s journey is different, and depends very highly on their history, their ability and methods of coping, their sense of safety and stability… just so many factors!
It’s good to hear your partner has found a psychologist he is able to work with, and that he is feeling hopeful about the future. I’m not sure if his psychologist specialises in trauma but this can be very important, as working with trauma is very different to ‘general’ psychology and counselling.
In terms of your relationship with each other, and improving intimacy and becoming close with each other, this is something that may need some specific work. This can involve talking with each other and making very clear plans on how to work towards getting both your needs met in a way that feels safe and comfortable – setting goals and defining boundaries. Open communication through this, about hopes, desires, fears and feelings as they come up will be helpful – particularly since you both are keen to see this change but aren’t sure how to start. It’s possible a relationships counsellor could help you with this, or depending on your emotional intimacy with each other, perhaps its something you can begin approaching and taking steps together.
Either way, the most important thing in working through this is that you each take care of yourselves. When you do begin taking these steps, ensure that you’re also prioritising self care and your own wellbeing. This is what will give you the resilience and stability to work through any wobbles that may come up.
Best of luck to you both.
Comment by HP
HP June 14, 2017 at 7:14 pm
Hi, I am like Goldele’s boyfriend. Sexual experiences for me were so physically traumatic, terrifying and painful that other than my father, who abused me, I have had no sexual partners. I came close to being engaged twice in my 20’s. I have dated people in and out, but as soon as it comes time for intimacy, terror takes over.
I have seen therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists on and off since I was 12. No one has a good answer on how to realize, in the moment, that the event happening is not, nor ever will be as scary as it was when I was little. I would love to get over it. My dreams are of marriage and children, but it’s a double edged sword, that I can’t get over. If I don’t marry I probably will not have kids, though I could adopt, or foster. Marriage, looking at my mother’s and father’s marriage, is terrifying, but looking at some of my good friend’s marriages, it looks challenging, but worth it.
I trust that God has a plan and that He is healing me in His own way. I would love advice, however, I would like to give some as well. We can never judge another human’s pain. What to one person could be a splinter of pain, can overwhelm someone else. My good friend used to say, “Well I have been through nothing like you have.” True or not true, doesn’t matter, everyone has pain. It is why we can feel compassionate towards others. My pain may be worse than some other people’s pain, but I will never know the hunger that starving people feel in 3rd world countries. I do not know what it feels like to watch your child die of cancer, or to watch my child be hurt while I could do nothing about it. Pain is relative to our situations. Lol, if you asked some folks, a day without their iPad/iphone would be horrendous. Yet in other countries, what I paid for my iPad, could fund families for at least a year if not longer.
I am not saying child abuse is ok, not painful or as scary as hell. However, if you are an adult, you lived through the worst, now we have to try and make a good life with the time we have left. Just sharing your story Goldele, was enough to make me think on these things. Our stories are important, they are happy and sad, but they make us who we are. I used to wish that those things had never happened to me, however, I wonder who I would be if they had not happened to me. My story gives me compassion for others, a need to look out and try and help those in my community, to look out for the unseen (children usually.) It gives me the drive to stop those who are doing things that should never be thought of let alone done to someone else. My question always is this: If you know how it made you feel to have someone…rape, beat, emotionally abuse, terrify you etc., how could you possibly do that to anyone else?
Comment by endeavour
endeavour July 8, 2017 at 5:28 am
I am married with a man for 35 years. My husband had been very much dictating and dominating since we started dating 2 years before marriage. He is never physically abusive, but by any means or manipulation he tries to get things done his way. He had been always lying to me about his past sexual life. While we were having sex he used to tell me some stories about his past sexual incidents with a friend, or sister, an elderly woman, or young girls, etc. When I got upset he would say ‘I lied to you’.
I pretty much sort of believe he would have lied. He is a very, very egoistic man. He always tries to show his man ego at every point, whether at home or outside. He had been trying to look at girls or impress girls directly in front of me, and ignoring me at that point of time. He had always been comparing me with other women, about my sexual parts and breasts, in spite me having an excellent figure with attractive breasts and normal sexual desire or parts. He always expressed that he likes big breasts and slim figure, which I already have, yet he would criticise me as not having big breasts and would call me fat. He would describe some sexual attributes that I do not have and other woman have. My husband loves me a lot but he never respects me as a woman. I always wondered why did he do this.
He had always been asking me about my past sexual life. I had none (I met my husband at 17), still I had to tell some stories for his fantasy.
Recently, after 35 years, he confessed that he was twice sexually abused and raped 20 times by a 40 year old woman when he was 18 years old. He expressed that he was tortured physically and mentally by that woman and in one occasion she locked him in a room for 2 days and he was forced to perform sex about 20 times. He said it was a very bad experience for him, and that he couldn’t be normal, until he met me 1 year after that experience. This woman had a slim figure with big breasts, and whatever he expressed about sexual attributes in that lady that remind me of those attributes that he had been looking for in me.
My husband is a proven liar. I am unable to understand whether he had sex with that woman by choice or was sexually abused. I believe him this time as I presume such an egoistic man would lever let himself down by saying he was sexually assaulted.
My question is, did this incident have any psychological effect on my husband that would explain him behaving this way with me? He mentioned he had very bad experiences of rape, as it was a forceful act and that the lady physically abused him. He said he experienced immense sexual pleasure in few instances, but other instances were pleasureless. Is he lying that he was raped, or this is usual in men.. that they experience sexual pleasure even when they are sexually abused?
Please help me understand. I know it is very complicated but I would appreciate if anyone helps me understanding men’s psychological situation.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] July 26, 2017 at 10:49 am
Thanks for sharing your story with us. I would like to commend you in trying to work through and understand a very complex and confusing situation. I can understand how difficult it can be to try to get perspective and understand where another person is coming from, particularly in the context of that person having been quite hurtful towards you.
It is impossible for us to know what parts of what your husband says are true and what parts are embellished, particularly if there is a history of your husband being dishonest in the past. However it is definitely not unusual for a man to disclose sexual abuse, and then retract that disclosure and reframe it as a wanted sexual experience. It can be very hard for a man to come to terms with having been sexually violated. However you know your husband very well, and it sounds as though you do believe that he experienced sexual abuse. From what you have described I would say this is certainly possible, as it does not sound like an unusual story to those we hear from our clients.
We do often find that men can seek to process and understand traumatic experiences of sexual abuse and sexual assault by re-enacting events in a way they can control. We also find that factors of the abuse become entangled in their ideas and expectations of sexuality, sexual attraction, and sexual behaviour – particularly if the abuse happened as a boy or young man. So yes, it is certainly possible that his story of sexual abuse could help explain his behaviour towards you. Having said that, the abuse is certainly not an excuse for the way he has treated you. It is not okay for him to compare or disparage your body; I would call that a form of abuse in itself. Regardless of what has happened to him, he always has a choice about how he treats you.
I can answer that yes, it is very common for a man to experience arousal and sexual pleasure during sexual assault. This is one of the things that can cause a lot of confusion for him, and have him questioning ‘did I want it?’ – although this is not the case. It was still unwanted sexual contact, and the choice was taken away from him.
I hope that helps Endeavour. Please take care of yourself through this. Some of the links throughout this comment may help.
Comment by Maria
Maria August 2, 2017 at 6:42 pm
I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for about 16 months now, and I’ve never been happier with anyone else. Like other couples we have our good and bad days, but we’ve noticed every time we argue it’s about sex. I was sexually abused at the age of 7 till I was 12 by two family members and I know it’s the reason why I’m not interested in sex but it’s affecting my relationship. My boyfriend knows about my past but I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it, I get flashbacks and start panicking. he’s starting to think I don’t find him attractive and that he might have a problem by him wanting sex so much but I told him I do find him attractive and that it’s normal to want sex . I just don’t know what to do anymore, I want to get better / find a way to cope.
Comment by Rosie
Rosie September 23, 2017 at 2:31 pm
Myself and my partner both experienced sexual assault at a young age and we are trying to navigate our way towards building a healthy sexual relationship. We both get triggered so easily. One specific question I have, is what coping mechanisms or methods should we try when we face moments when one of us is more sexually aroused then the other, or initiates sex when the other isn’t quite feeling ready?
When this happens we always end up in a spiral of edgy and confused emotional states.
We try our best with communication but suppressing arousal also has consequences.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] September 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm
Thanks for reaching out and sharing your experiences here. It is good to hear that both you and your partner are willing to work through this together, and that you are able to communicate and support each other through these roadblocks. As touched on in the article above, communication is probably the most important factor in working through intimacy issues. If you’re willing and able to be open and vulnerable with each other, verbally and emotionally as well as physically, it bodes well for working through this.
I imagine that being sexually intimate to the degree you desire could be quite difficult if you are both susceptible to being triggered at times. The most important thing here is to make personal choice a priority. With a history of sexual assault, in which choice was taken away from you, it is important that you always feel you have a choice, and complete control over what happens and when. This can go two ways: The first is feeling comfortable to say to your partner, “No,” “Stop,” or “I need a break.” The second is, in the moment, keeping in mind that you are the one making this choice; that you do have control, and being intimate now is what you want.
When going with the latter option, being mindful of the present moment can also be helpful. Mindfulness is a cognitive strategy that can assist with grounding you in the here and now (as opposed to the ‘there and then’). When you first notice anxiety is being triggered (when it is still low level), a strategy might be to ask your partner to slow down and try some mindful touching. Focus your attention completely on your physical experience in this moment. When your mind becomes distracted by other thoughts and feelings, and it will, simply pull your attention back to where you want it.
If you’re both very frustrated and at a loss, then counselling may be a good option. We do recommend finding a counsellor who has a lot of experience in working with sexual trauma, individually and with couples. We find that experience in working with trauma responses is more important than being a sex therapist, and that general sex therapy can actually be quite unhelpful where there is a history of sexual abuse. Just something to keep in mind.
Best wishes to you both, Rosie.
Comment by Amy
Amy November 11, 2017 at 6:03 pm
I was sexually abused as a child by my father from the ages of 7-10 years old. I struggle with sex, but I understand it’s part of a relationship and push myself to go as far as I can so my partner is happy. However when it comes to oral sex, I can’t do that. It’s far to traumatic and I want nothing to do with it. I’ve explained this to my partner several times, and emphasised that it’s nothing to do with him personally, but he keeps on running me down. The other night he told me I was a selfish cow for not giving him oral sex, and threatened to get it from someone else. I was absolutely shattered. It’s like it’s all about him and what he wants, my feelings and needs don’t even come into it. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect support and understand from your partner when you’ve been through something terrible.
I’ve read so many comments on this site from partners who don’t get any sexual contact, and the only thing I say no to is oral sex. I’m starting to wonder if my partners behaviour is abusive. I would never treat a man like this. It’s making me so unhappy and I don’t know what to do. Am I being unreasonable saying no?
Comment by Nikki
Nikki November 29, 2017 at 11:30 pm
Amy first off I want to say I am sorry For what happened to you. Second never think you are unreasonable for saying no. It is your body to share and no one else’s. Your boyfriends behavior sounds to me like It is boardering on abusive if it isn’t already. He knows what you went through and still cannot respect something that is incredibly painful for you being off limits. Do you see a therapist at all? Perhaps bringing him into a session or even suggesting a couples therapy session.
My partner has some areas I can’t touch or that trigger strong emotional responses for him and it’s hard for me but just like I am your partner needs to learn its painful for you. It is definitely not easy for anyone involved. His willingness to work On this with you though would help to strengthen what you do have and he can focus less on what he isn’t getting. Intimacy has so many levels. Peace and love.
Comment by Amy
Amy February 12, 2018 at 6:47 pm
Thank you for your kind words. I’m also sorry to hear about what your boyfriend went through and how this has impacted you.
I am currently seeing a therapist but unfortunately I haven’t gone into a lot of what has been happening in my relationship during the sessions. I feel so ashamed that as a 28 year old woman, I can’t sort it out for myself. I have spoken to my boyfriend about coming to counselling, however he just wants me to fix it all myself, which isn’t realistic as it affects both people. After reading your post and others, I’m thinking it’s time for me to leave this situation as it’s only making my struggles worse. I feel like I absolutely have the capacity to move on with my life, but obviously I need to be with a partner like yourself, who understands that this is something which takes time.
Once again, thanks for your kind words, and best of luck to you and your boyfriend.
Comment by Kate
Kate March 24, 2018 at 5:09 pm
I’m so sorry for what you experienced as a child. My boyfriend was also sexually abused as a child by his father, and it breaks my heart. Personally, I think that parental incest is the worst form of abuse. It’s like another layer of betrayal, because it goes against everything that a parent is suppose to be. Like my boyfriend, I think you are absolutely amazing to have survived that. There’s no way I could have, as I’m sure many others would agree. I have so much respect for survivors, and their courage to go on living!
Regarding the difficulty you are having with your partner, if you can even call him that, you sound like you’re in a very similar situation to my boyfriend. Before I met him, he was in a relationship with a woman who also pressured him into sexual acts he wasn’t comfortable doing. As you described, it was extremely distressing and caused him even more difficultly. He had also told her about his past, and she offered absolutely no kind of support whatsoever. When I met him, I was shocked and horrified by her complete coldness to his suffering. Not to mention the abuse she further inflicted on him. She basically used his past trauma as a weapon against him to manipulate him into doing everything she wanted, and it sounds like your partner is doing the same thing.
The main thing I’d like to emphasise is that no means no! Everyone has the right to decide what happens to their body, and how sexual they will be. You are NOT RESPONSIBLE for your partner’s happiness or his needs. He knows what you went through as a child, and yet HE CHOSE to stay in the relationship despite the fact you told him oral sex was a no go zone. If he can’t respect your preferences, then he should leave the relationship. It’s one thing to express disappointment, it’s something else to become aggressive and abusive, especially to someone who has suffered through child sexual assault. He needs to grow up and stop blaming you for what he wants. His needs are his responsibility, not yours, or anybody else’s for that matter! You don’t have to put up with that. There are so many men out there who would support you in that, so please don’t let him think you can’t have a relationship. Despite the way oral sex is portrayed in the media, lots of people don’t like it. I’ve got friends, both male and female, who were never abused and yet they still can’t stand it. And that is perfectly fine. Unfortunately, some people don’t have the maturity to accept that not everyone is into the same things as them, for a wide range of reasons.
You have also stated you asked him to come to therapy with you, (something any normal, supportive partner would do), but he has refused this. It’s not hard to work out why. He knows what he is doing to you is wrong, and any decent therapist will point out that his behaviour is abusive. Clearly he doesn’t want to hear that! Like all abusive people, they rarely take responsibility for their actions, nor do they want to change! Relationships are all about compromise, which is something that must go both ways. It’s not just about getting everything you want for yourself, and it sounds like your partner needs to realise this. Sure, sex is an important part of a relationship, but what you went through is equally important, and it has to come into the equation. Has your partner ever once thought about how difficult sex must be for you after what you went through? Has he ever once thought about how amazing it is you want him to be happy even if it means you risk being triggered and reliving the worst experiences of your life? Has he ever once thought about how he would feel if someone forced him to do something without any concern for his feelings? The list could go on!!! He can’t just throw temper tantrums when it doesn’t all go his way. That’s pathetic, and certainly not the way an adult behaves. I’d hate to see how he’d cope with a real problem. Just think about that! My advice to you would be cut your loses before he starts impacting on your recovery. You are clearly a
strong, intelligent woman who can absolutely reclaim your life. I wish you all the happiness and good health you deserve. Best of luck to you on you journey! I know you will get there.
Comment by Paul
Paul April 23, 2018 at 10:23 pm
I agree completely with the last two comments. I think Kate’s response was brilliant. You boyfriends behaviour is abusive. Period. He has no right to force you into anything you don’t feel comfortable doing, and I think his unwillingness to work with you is a sign of selfishness and immaturity. Get rid of him. While some survivors forget the impact on partners, partners are also capable of being abusive and self-centred. It goes both ways. Good luck with everything.
Comment by Ray
Ray November 13, 2017 at 2:19 am
I’m 70 and the lady I was seeing is 60. We went out one night and also had sex that night and the night after. The next time I was with her she told me that she couldn’t have sex anymore because she felt very uncomfortable doing it. That’s when she said she had been raped when she was a young girl. I very much liked her and told her it’s not a problem and we continued to see each other and sleep together without sex.
She had been married twice before and had a child with each. They both cheated on her and she also had a number of boyfriends that didn’t stay around probably because after one or two times of sex, it would stop.
I would have stayed with her but I was asking her questions about her problem and suggested she should talk to a professional. She wasn’t very happy with me and broke off our relationship. I’d love to have her back but it doesn’t look good.
Dose this happen a lot with women and what can be done. Ray
Comment by Nikki
Nikki November 13, 2017 at 2:37 am
My partner recently revealed to me that he was sexually abused by his mother when he was 16 years old. His mother left when he was two years old and after years of being abused by his father he sought her out. She offered for him to live with her in Florida and she sexually abused him on several occasions while he lived with her. Knowing this has helped me to understand why our sex life has been such a struggle. I love him so much and I know how difficult it was for him to share this experience with me. He hasn’t shared with me exactly what happened and I know he may never share that with me. I am not sure how to move forward now without triggering him. I want to have a healthy sexual relationship and I know he does as well but I am not sure how to proceed. We have had very minimal sexual contact since he started therapy and I do not want bringing it up to upset him but I somehow need to find a way to start this process.
Comment by Jane
Jane March 20, 2018 at 8:39 am
Why is this article referring to men’s sexual abuse history rather than women? In Addition, there is no reference to women’s experiences in this whatsoever. Women face far more sexual abuse then many in mos all areas of various forms of abuse. How is a woman with sexual abuse history suppose to find this helpful, then most of society is built on the experiences of a man and men are mainly the perpetrators. This is unfathomable to feel like this information is helpful when deep down in further marginalizing. Seriously, how is this suppose to help? If this is specifically for men’s healing, then you need to specify this at the beginning. This is gender bias at best.
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] March 20, 2018 at 7:08 pm
Thanks for your comment. You are quite correct that sexual violence is a gendered crime, and that women and girls are predominantly more affected. This can clearly be seen in the statistics we look at on this website.
The incidence of female sexual assault is unequivocally higher and we fully acknowledge this fact. What we find this means is that the sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse of males, which also occur at unacceptable rates, are issues for which there exist far less information, support, counselling, advocacy and advice.
As such, Living Well is a service and website specifically for male victims of sexual violence; the only one of its kind in Australia.
If you arrived at this page while looking for information for women, never fear – there is a wealth of it out there! We can highly recommend SECASA as just one option.
Comment by V.A
V.A November 19, 2018 at 3:46 pm
I fell in love with a woman with a child sexual abuse experience. She told me from the start of her experiences, and I told her it would not bother me, since I knew quite a few women where I am from about such experience, but knowing it and living it is totally two different things.
She was the love of my life and we had the most magical experience I have ever had in my life (was going through a tough mental long term relationship), she was my anchor of sanity, just being with her made me smile to the truest heart content I have not get in years. After 6 months though, it felt like a flipped switch, she halted or not responding well to my advance most of the time. She would have trouble remembering all her trauma, and always seems distant to the problem.
We talked calmly for a few times, and I tried to help, reading the article and the comment here for the past year has been helpful. She would take the longest time to take action, and be bashful when I touched the subjects. I tried so many way to find a comfortable time slot or environments for her to talk or to take the first steps, yet she seems to think of me as just wanting “sex” or “getting my investment back”. The cycle rinse and repeat for a whole year, and the more I tried to hold out the more her words seems to hurt more than a nuclear bomb.
She finally agree to seeks help, that was the best moment I’ve had in a year, cause it feels like there’s a ray of hope again. I couldn’t actively seek help or support group without her saying so, and couldn’t talk to anyone about this other than the two of us, these comments and a few other channels were the only thing I got, and I kept coming back here. For the longest time I remembered, I kept on reading these, try to understand, talking to myself, as if I’m ready so when she finally opened up I have the best set of knowledge I could to walk with her.
If living it is totally different from knowing it, then you would not know how hard it is to really try to heal from it. By the time she finally took the preparation steps to see an expert, we lasted for one and a half month before we broke up. I remembered the longest time didn’t know if what i did was enough for her to trust me (the sex is off and I tried my best to keep it to myself), she hardly talked about it or even discuss, the only way we could communicate is once a week before a therapist. I kept on ranting cause I needed to tell her somehow, and before I know it, ranting is all I got left.
I read this article over and over again, and saw so many failure of others, and I love this woman like my life depends on it, I tried to get back to her after the breakups, by that time she already look at me like someone she can’t trust. If her walking out and shut down on me hurt so much, her not trusting me anymore left a void bigger than any of my past relationship (did not have much luck in those either). I was hurt, heart broken and depressed for so long I could not take it anymore, but at the same times I don’t want to be another failed romance like it is so commonly happened. I made up the biggest life plan I have and did not have the chance to really put it in motion, sometimes both demons the romance are way stronger than the human side.
I felt like I have tried my best and gave support for her, yet it feels like I haven’t done the world enough. I was at the receiving end of hurtful remarks and abandonment, yet one sentence of her made me feel like I’m the worst culprit of her heart, and that I am the one dealing all the pain while keeping myself from the safe distance. It was the worst last 6 months for me, yet I wanted to have her in my arms again.
My life was built around this combustion of emotion I have with her (both bad and good), and now with her gone, I don’t know what to do with my life anymore, I just want her back so bad I left our apartment key under the door mat. It sink me down the abyss, yet I’d do it all again if I turn back time, cause love deserves a chance no matter what or who we are.
To those out there, my experience is to start early, see someone, talk about it even if your life partner haven’t started yet, equip yourself as much as possible, and if you love them, pray, a lot of praying. Once you got in their graces, try your best to stay in it, I know how fragile that was. Good luck!
Comment by Tea
Tea June 3, 2020 at 5:42 am
I know this article is a couple of years old and you might not see this, but I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. I am all grown up and married, in a very healthy relationship.
However, I still experience psychological blocks with sex and it is something that brings me down when I focus on it. It is something my husband tries really hard to understand, but he struggles to know what to do to help.
Is there an article you could recommend for male partners of women who were sexually abused as a child?
Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]
Jess [Living Well Staff] July 2, 2020 at 1:03 pm
Hi Tea, Thanks for your comment. Good on you for doing a bit of research and reaching out for support! It’s a difficult issue and can be hard to talk about, so it’s brave of you.
We do specialise in supporting men, so don’t have resources aimed at women or their partners unfortunately. I can recommend this article Childhood Sexual Abuse: How Men Can Help Women Recover, which is on an external website. Otherwise it could be worthwhile looking into whether there are any support services in your area which focus on the area of sexual abuse and seeing if both you and your husband could have a chat with someone.
I wish you both the best.
Comment by JohnB
JohnB January 25, 2021 at 12:31 pm
My childhood abuse and trauma caused a type of subconscious intimacy anxiety that kills desire and shuts me down sexually. This only seems to happen when a given relationship starts getting serious. When I was single this didn’t bother me as I would simply break off the relationship when the sexual dysfunctions started and move on to another woman. This went on for 15 years until I finally married but now the marriage is sexless and has been since the beginning. We tried therapy over the years without any luck. One therapist said he thought I was suffering from an Avoidant Attachment Disorder.