Effects of abuse on Sexuality

What effects does abuse have on a child’s sexuality?
When a child is sexually abused, his/her normal sexual development is cut short. Being forced to be sexual on an adult level leaves the child not being able to develop his own desire, sexual orientation or interest. He/she doesn’t get a chance to explore sex in an age-appropriate way. The child learns that the abusers sexual desire is a scary, out of control, force and his/her first sexual experiences of arousal are linked with shame, disgust, pain and humiliation. This makes for powerful imprinting. If the abuse was linked with affection and nurturing, the child grows up confused about the difference between affection and sex, intimacy and intrusion.

What effects does abuse have on an adult’s sexuality?
In adulthood this can play out in several different ways: Some survivors chose celibacy or chose partners who don’t want sex. Sometimes they spend many years and a great deal of energy trying to find ways to avoid having sex. Some view sex as “dirty” or see it as an obligation that they must perform. Survivors may force themselves for years to go through the motions even though they are numb, absent or in a panic. They may think that they are frigid, or be confused about homosexuality, or maybe they just feel that they are dysfunctional all together because they do not understand that they are suffering from the effects of the abuse. They may have violent or abusive fantasies that arose them but then cause them great shame. Other times the survivor may confuse the partner with the abuser during sex, Sex becomes a mine field of painful associations and memories. Other survivors act out or become promiscuous believing that they are only good or loved for sex. He or She then fulfills this legacy sometimes with total disregard for his/her own safety. They feel they cannot say NO to sex and end up having sex with anyone that wants them.

The sense of well being and self-esteem gets hooked up with sexual desirability. The survivor might only feel a sense of self-worth when being sexually desired. Also here is the fact that many survivors find one-night stands sexually enjoyable. This is because they are disconnected with any emotional or intimate feelings regarding sex. As a child, survivors become programmed to disconnect from sex and from anyone who loved him and wanted sex with him. So as an adult, sex with an intimate partner may become a “skin crawling” experience. Many have noticed that the deeper the relationship became, the less they wanted sex with this person. They may feel so confused as to why they enjoyed sex before but suddenly can’t stand to be touched by the partner. I will get into how this effects the partners in the next paragraph. They may continually be unfaithful to their partners because they want to enjoy a sexual experience, they want to confirm to themselves that they are “sexually normal” that they can enjoy sex. They may come to believe that this may mean they are not “in love” with the partner and even break up the relationship because of the sexual turn off that they feel. This then becomes a pattern. They can meet someone new, enjoy sex for a time and then as the relationship goes to a deeper more connected level, the same thing happens. They can’t stay disconnected from sex in an intimate relationship and they can’t connect sex with love. I have seen cases where because of this, survivors feel that they must be homosexual. They find a same sex partner, enjoy the sex in the beginning and then all the same things start happening to them. This leaves them feeling totally confused and dysfunctional.

How does this effect the Partner?
For partners of Survivors, this whole aspect is very frustrating. The partner can wind up feeling like a failure for not be able to give pleasure or express their true feelings to the survivor. They may feel rejected and at a loss on what to do about this situation. Their own sexual desires are put on hold. They love the survivor but have needs of their own also. It is important to remember that the survivor is feeling these feelings because of the abuse they suffered and it is not that the partner is lacking as a lover. It is hard not to take it personally as what could be more personal than your sex life, however, it really is not your fault. You could be the best lover on the planet and that would only serve to make the survivor more confused, more guilt ridden. Survivors feel a tremendous sense of guilt for not being sexually available for their partners…for not enjoying sex the way they wish they could. The survivor probably loves you very much but it is just too scary to feel this with his/her body too. In fact, the fact that they are willing to stay in the relationship and have to deal with this sexual issue every day, is proof that the survivor must care for you a great deal. IT takes a big toll on someone to try and avoid sex, make excuses, panic at being touched in the night, have all those feelings continually brought up.

When the survivor starts being honest about his or her feelings with the partner, the partner might feel shocked, angry and bewildered, especially if the survivor seemed to enjoy sex before. Sudden upheaval of sexual issues is the norm when survivors start to work on abuse issues. Patience with the survivor is key. Survivors often cannot work on sexual issues until the later stages of healing. If a survivor feels pressure to have sex during this time, it only serves to make him/her feel worse. Especially if there is fighting or threats about this. The survivor feels like this is the original abuse because they feel manipulated again. This only shuts the survivor down further. When the pressure for sex is taken off of the survivor, this allows him or her room to heal sexually. As a partner, you do have a choice, you can leave the relationship and find someone else to have sex with but the survivor can’t. Unless she/he heals sexually, these problems will follow her into every relationship for the rest of her life. Her/his motivation to heal and change is greater than yours. You cannot make someone heal sexually. You can’t set deadlines or orchestrate the survivors progress. You can set mutual goals and work toward them. You can make your feelings and needs known and say that sex is important to you and that you want, eventually, to have a mutual sexual relationship. The survivor understands this, they want the same thing. Things will change and can even though it may not seem like it now. Ultimately, you will be rewarded with a whole and healthy person.
Working with a survivor on sexual healing takes an incredible amount of patience, persistence and an acceptance of the fact that you are growing as a person too. Survivors often need to be the initiators of sex in order to feel in control. This is an important thing for partners to understand.

Let the survivor make the moves and set the pace for your love making. If the survivor feels in control, often this makes a very big difference. Try not to feel rejected when you reach over in bed and your partner flinches from your touch. Remember that a lot of survivors do not like to be touched when they are sleeping. For obvious reasons, this is very triggering for them. Avoid power struggles over sex. During this time, partners may find it extremely helpful to join a support group.

55 Responses to Effects of abuse on Sexuality

  1. brittany says:

    i was sexually abused by my step father for 4 years… ywars later and it still eats at me i havnt told anyone i have been too scared to because of the things he used to threaten to do.what do i fo

    • Henrietta Frazier says:

      It’s time to break your silence n start the healing process or you will forever be imprisoned to that pain. When you keep silent it gives consent to the abuser n continue to hold power over your life.

    • Henrietta Frazier says:

      It’s time to break your silence n start the healing process or you will forever be imprisoned to that pain. I think your silence gives consent so its important for you not to give your abuser power over your life.

    • anon says:

      i have been abused by my father as well. and i too was scared of saying anything but its time you speak up, i waited too long and let him have this power over me. take the control back. last year i finally said something. it ate me alive for 12 years, feeling ashamed and alone, your voice is your greatest weapon DO NOT LET HIM SHUT YOU OUT.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      You have to accept that he cannot and will not do those things – and even if he did, then it is his responsibility NOT yours!

      You now need to share this – you need to tell someone. It does not have to be your mum or anyone in your family. You will probably need help for that and for confronting your father – which you will almost certainly need to do to get closure. Try to ensure that you do confront him before he is ill or dies – when you will get no closure. You do not have to take him through the courts if you do not want to (although that is always something that you should consider – to prevent him doing it to anyone else in future – you will probably discover that you are NOT his only victim!).

      Seek professional help NOW! If you can face it go to your GP, otherwise look on line for a therapist or counsellor.

    • Anon says:

      I’m was abused by my mother when I was 12. Im a male. Im now 46 and disclosed this 2 years ago. I’ve been depressed angry, blamed my wife for the black hole I feel inside. Had several emotional affairs and 2 physical affairs trying to plug that hole. My wife knows. We have been married 20 years. I said nothing till 2 years ago. We are in counselling. But I finally realised that it was my issues causing the problem. I have no idea how to resolve this.

      • Strongwilled says:

        Anon,

        I am a female survivor. I was 5 years old when my abuse happened. My mom’s boyfriend abused me sexually. I do not remember how long this went on, but I do remember that I did not feel like I had anyone behind my back. I went to counseling afterwards, but never talked about it with any one of them. I supressed my issues as a young child growing up and displaying permiscuous behavior shortly after my abuse. I lost my virginity at the age of 11 to someone who broke my heart after a 3 year relationship. Then, I spiralled into a pattern of having sex just because I could. My first marriage ended because he cheated and did not want to keep the marriage. The anger and bitterness and hurt and that I felt was awful! I walked into another relationship 6 months after my ex filed for divorce and after I had my 2nd child with my ex. I moved in with my now husband 4 or 5 months after meeting him. 6 months later I left him because I did not know what I wanted. I was at the tail end of my divorce and because my first husband never wanted me to work (told me that thekids would not know either of their parents and never supported me having a job outside the home) I did not have a job. I started feeling like I had lost my identity after I lied to my now husband and went to see an old fling. Nothing happened sexually, but the emotional ties that I apparently still had were there. 2 or 3 months after I left I came back to a relationship where there was no trust which I completely understood. I had crushed his heart 🙁 We worked on our problems and after a short while he asked me to marry him. two years later we were married. 4 years into our marriage something snapped becuase all the distrust and anger has come up again. Our entire relationship (7 years) my husband has wanted us to explore an open relationship. From the very beginning I never wanted to do it. I guess I did it to please him or to find kind of something. I am curious as to what you mean by “trying to plug the hole”. I have always felt like there was something missing. I am wondering if that is what I did by exploring an open relationship. My husband feels deeply about him just not being enough and I have tried to tell him that he is, but maybe in some way because I have not healed he is not. All of my relationships have been unhealthy and I have always had one. I think that you are doing what you can by going to counseling now. I think that is a good step. I know the pain you are experiencing; although it may not be exactly the same. After a while of being with people on a romantic and physical level I shut down. i can no longer experience what is beautiful. I no longer have the desire to be with my husband sexually which causes him immense pain and has caused A LOT of distrust, anger and resentment. I feel like there is no way out, like I am doomed to feel this way forever. Just yesterday we started counseling. We both have issues that need sorted. I need healing. I told him a week ago that I needed to refrain from sexual activities and he has withdrawn himself almost completely. I understand why, but I need to figure out me before I can be completely there for someone else. I know it is not fair, but that’s what needs to happen and I know it.

        My point is, I know you feel alone and maybe angry and tired of dealing with this. I did not realize that my abuse was why I was so unhappy until this past year and I just thought there was no fixing it. You can heal, but it will take time. The thing is is that you don’t have to resolve this on your own. Talk to your spouse and tell what you need. Be there for her in ANY way that you can even if its just making her lunch for the day or getting her to the spa or giving her a massage. If you shut her out she will withdraw and that’s where resentment starts.

        What has helped me the last week is refraining from sex. I do not have that hanging over my head. I still feel guilty for not being able to and I sad because I have cut that off. Just this morning he tried and I called the stop sign into play. I have to do what is right for my head in order to heal and so do you.

        Without you being whole, you cannot fully be there for someone else.

        I hope that helps

  2. Quad kelly says:

    I have been abused as a child and don’t think I know how to love myself,but I look for love in men and don’t understand why

    • Trish says:

      I know how that feels

      • anon says:

        I know how that feels. You need to recover from the guilt, shame, and worthlessness. It was not your fault. Love yourself first. That emotional black hole you are seeking to fill can only be filled by you and counselling. It’s so hard. But first step is recognising that fear of rejection, abandonment is driving potentially dependant relationships. Try to recognise this pain, and accept it, but not let it become your gut feeling / instinct.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Last thing I want to do is talk to a bunch of strangers about my problems. I was abused sexually from as far back as I remember. Im in my late 30s now and I can’t enjoy sex with my husband. I avoid it, I feel physically sick when it does happen. And he just dont get it.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      If you cannot resolve this with your husband, then I think the only option you have left is try to resolve it with a ‘bunch of strangers’ – hence you are posting this!

      Once you start talking its not as hard as you fear. It is, I think, often easier to write it down (like this) or you might find that art therapy is useful for you. I could not have talked as much as I have without a (really really crappy) piece of art therapy that I did in The Priory. The art therapist was useless, but a fellow patient told me how he had drawn a picture of his abuse. He showed it to me and talked me through it and what it meant to him (his drawing was no better than mine) – it was really precious to him and really helped him to talk to other counsellors. I did a similar picture of my story and this really helped me first to talk to him and then to another patient and subsequently to other therapists and counsellors. In the fulness of time, I am hopeful that it will help me through all this crap and help me to explain it all to my mum with whom I am currently unable to communicate. I get really panicky if I lose this silly piece of paper!

  4. Susan says:

    Help. Does anyone else feel tacitly in my/their body that I am having sex with a man; actual penetration. I can’t control it and I can’t stop it help. I was damaged by sexual abuse as a child but have been celebrant >{?sp) successfully for years but my sexual urges are now out of control. Help.

  5. Leo says:

    Hi, I was sexually abused by my step brother from the age of 4 until 6 then it stopped but when I was 12 he raped me. The police were involved etc and I have overcome what happened. I am in a relationship with someone I love and I really do love him but find it hard to show affection I don’t enjoy kissing and don’t cuddle him much although I don’t mind that as much as kissing I do have a sexual relationship with him and I enjoy it but it’s just the simple things I struggle with like kissing and holding hands I’m also pregnant with his baby but feel like I’m not good enough I want him to know how much I love him but just can’t . Why is this ? Am I just weird? He gets upset because I cuddle my cat and kiss him but it’s different I see my cat as a huge comfort why is this please help x

    • Anne-Marie says:

      No – you are not weird, but you have been damaged and you do need help for your sake, for your partners sake and for your baby’s sake. Don’t do as I did and think ‘I’m coping, things are fine, I don’t need help’ for decades! Eventually it will catch up with you and in the meantime you will be causing yourself and your loved ones damage.

      You are good enough to have him know how much you love him and how much you are struggling and he needs to know why you are struggling and he deserves the opportunity to try to help you overcome it or at least to understand why you have difficulties showing him the affection he wants and needs and deserves. If you cannot overcome your difficulties, he at least deserves an explanation.

      Cuddling the cat provides non threatening comfort – stroking an animal is comforting anyway and releases endorphins which relax you and boost your self esteem, but a loved pet, who reciprocates your devotion is also providing you with a positive relationship with positive, reciprocative feedback/ undemanding unconditional love without any complication of involving sex.

      Please seek professional help as soon as possible and talk to your partner as soon as you possibly can (today if you feel you can talk without professional support).

  6. Veronicah says:

    HI, I was sexually abused by a stranger at night when I was on my way home. I am lucky i got support and i healed.

    now the problem is that i am in a relationship but my partner is complaining that I don’t satisfy him sexually. What do I do? Please help.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      Veronicah – if you do not satisfy him sexually that is not your fault! You need to talk to him. You need to tell him that it is his problem and that you are willing to try to help him with his problem, but simply saying that you do not satisfy him is demeaning to you and unacceptable, but you are willing to try to help him to resolve his problem (assuming that you are!). You could ask him why he feels you are not satisfying him, what you might be able to do differently to rectify the situation, if it is in his head – has anyone ever ‘satisfied him’, is he simply asking you to accept that he wants to be more adventurous with you (if so you have to decide if you are happy to go with that) or if he is basically asking you for carte blanche to seek other sexual partners (perhaps you may be, but think seriously about the effect on your self esteem if you decide you can go with that – and do be prepared to re-evaluate it at a later date if you find you cannot cope with it! My advice is, no matter how hard it is to put your foot down and say no to other partners, long term it will be the least destructive for your self esteem).

      Remember IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT that you were abused and IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT that he feels he is not satisfied – only he can resolve what he means by this and how much being sexually satisfied means to him and (most importantly) how much YOU mean to him.

    • Sharna says:

      I was sexually abuse for many years by a family member. And I just had my long term partner of 4 cheat on me. As apparently I wasn’t giving him enough sex. I even told him everything. They have no idea what we go through everyday. We know they need our affection but we have a hard time seeing sex as affection. You aren’t alone there are many women that are experiencing similar problems just like you.

  7. Rachel Jordan says:

    Hello! My partner was abused by a priest (now dead) until the age 15. He tells me that sex is just sex and he has no emotions no matter who he has sex with. Is this normal for a man that had been sexually abused? I feel like maybe it’s a defense mechanism. Is there anything I can do to help bringet emotion into our sex life?

    • Anne-Marie says:

      Rachel – I think that some abused men do respond in this way. I was recently in The Priory with both men and women who had been abused. Abuse victims seem to go one of two ways – either they take the attitude ‘sex is just sex’ and that is their way of coping (often becoming pretty promiscuous in the process) or they become frigid and fearful of sex and consciously or subconsciously avoid it! Not really sure which is more healthy or helpful. If you have had sex forced upon you when you were too young, too small, too inexperienced, too unprepared to know how to deal with it, then shutting down emotionally and letting it happen could actually be a very efficient coping mechanism. But continuing with a sex life without emotional attachment as an adult with loving partner is not healthy and will ultimately lead to the collapse of the relationship. You need to try to get your partner to seek help and if they won’t (I suspect he won’t) then you need to get help firstly to protect yourself and secondly to try to help him.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    I was sexually abused by my older sister between age 8 and 9. My parents shamed me, I felt I failed them and never could do good again. Still feel that. When I was a little older (12/13) I emulated what my sister did, abusing my younger sister for s short time. I am 43 and married now and can’t be intimate with my wife. She understands why, but it is difficult for both of us. I just want to fix it sooner than later. I just want to be normal. I have many sexual desires and want to be with men and women and have so many fantasies (normal and alternative)…but it also makes me anxious and sick. I can’t get away from the feelings that I am a cancer. Sure I was abused, but later I was no better. I’m in therapy but the complications are so confused and “complicated”. Hard to see a way to ever feel peace and forever in fight or flight mode or self-hate.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      Jeffrey – I feel for you. I was abused by an older baby sitter and his younger brother when I was 8. It was only last summer when my husband came out as gay that our counsellor made me face up to the fact that I had been an abused child – until last summer (aged 50) I had thought of it as unfortunate events and I was/ still am convinced that they were from an abusive family and did to me what had been done unto them. I coped with it all until my husband left me for his toy boy (25!). Since the summer I have gone completely to pieces. Because I feel sure that my abusers must have been through it, I don’t actually ‘blame’ them. I have since stopped communicating with my mother because I cannot deal with her emotions and her guilt and her ‘tough love’ but I do not blame her either (although I feel sure that, despite her constantly questioning my memory of the facts and demanding what EXACTLY happened – I don’t know, I have some very defined vivid memories and some yawning gaps – she feels unnecessary, unproductive guilt). I left my baby sister with the abuser – my husband insisting on telling my family as well as the counsellor means I have had the chance to apologise to her – have you tried apologising to your younger sister and explaining what you went through? Has your older sister apologised to you? Has she explained what prompted her to abuse you? Was she abused? Perhaps by a parent, baby sitter, uncle, family friend, school friend? How long have you been in therapy? I feel sure that long term therapy will work (I hope!). Talk to your wife. Remember that intimacy with your wife is a necessary component to expressing your love for her and the sanctity of your relationship – it is not abusive. Yes, you love your sisters, but in the way you love your wife. Intimacy with your wife is right and natural, such intimacy with your sisters was not, but you were a child and needed help – no-one recognised your needs or your sisters needs at the time, but now I hope counselling or psychotherapy can help you.

      It has helped me to hear your story. It has made me all the more sure than my abusers were themselves victims. My marriage was predominantly celebrate – it never occurred to me that this was indicative of a serious problem. I thought it was lack of time, pressure of demanding careers and children!

  9. Grace says:

    The worst thing about sexual abuse, especially as a child, is that it screws with our developmental rate. I was molested by a couple of teenage boys from the age of about 8 to 9, and that was minor compared to what I see happening to other people. When you’re forced into a sexual role at an age where you’re too young to fully understand all of the implications, the results can be crippling once you reach adulthood. Something that I, and several other people, have faced, is both over-sexualization in older years (i.e. abusing others, excessive masturbation, fantasies that you wouldn’t normally have, prostitution, and sexting) and the utter gut-churning anxiety of a committed sexual relationship.

  10. Carrie says:

    My brother raped me but if he could be as honest as you are being it did would make me feel so much better. If he could tell me why he did it that would help too but he didn’t reply to my letter asking for an apology. Perhaps you could let your younger sister know you are sorry and allow her to feel better, in turn I think that would allow you to feel better too. I am so sorry if you can’t get an apology from your older sister and I am also very sorry that your parents shamed you. That has been a terrible burden. I understand what you mean about the flight or flight mode and the self hate as I suffer from both of those too. Don’t be put off thinking that things are ‘complicated’ and ‘confused’ as I’m sure most people writing here feel that their situation is complicated, certainly mine is and I get frustrated that I can’t explain in it simply. I do hope you can find some peace through your therapy and support from your wife.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      Hi Carrie,

      Have you tried just talking to your brother? Perhaps if you could start a dialogue without expecting an explanation or apology, you might be able to get him to start to think about it. You might later get an explanation and/or apology. You might find that he too was abused and this led to your abuse. Perhaps not starting with asking for an apology might get the honesty more quickly as he might then not feel judged.

      I hope you get the resolution you need.

  11. Cynthia karned says:

    I feel like I’m lost, I was abused as a child by my step father for years, I have had three failed marriages, I always feel as though I want to have sex,but during sex, I get so scared tense, wonder what is he thinking,why do I do this, I am 59, years old and never in my life have I ever felt or had an orgasm, I just lay there, I tell my mind to relax try to enjoy my husband but my mind will not let my body! I feel as though I have lost myself, I feel like the intamacy is dirty, I feel dirty, I panick I feel as though I am doing something wrong, I am just so messed up over this! My first marriage I choose not to tell my husband about the abuse for fear of losing him,when he did find out he left because he didn’t believe my step dad could have done that, my second husband I didn’t tell because I lost my first one because he found out, then my stepfather tried to molest my oldest daughter I freaked out ,got her away from him, but then my husband started saying things like o go have sex with your dad you must like that! Omg I was so so very hurt! No one could imagine the hurt I felt, my third husband I decided to tell before I married him, he was so comforting telling me how sorry he was I had to go through that, one year later, he changed started calling all my family child molesters and anyone born by a child molester would grow into a molester, omg are you kidding me!!!!! Please please help me!!!! I do not know how to fix me!!!!!!!!

    • Personal says:

      You’re 2nd and 3rd husbands were abusers too. Very emotionally unavailable and abusive. You’ve been victimized too often. You were helpless at one point as a child. Counseling can help you leave victimhood.

  12. Anne-Marie says:

    Cynthia, I completely understand your fear and your panic. I too feel that I am ‘messed up’ and that I have never been able to relax and simply ‘enjoy’ sex with my husband – not that we had that much sex! This was made more difficult recently when he declared he was gay and moved in with his boyfriend half his age (50 and 25!).

  13. Lou says:

    I was sexually abused by my headteacher at school when i was 8 years old. Over 30 years later i am still haunted by this. He only did it once. I have never told anyone. Everyday i feel more tortured. i don’t know what to do. I feel like i am on self destruct mode.

  14. Anne-Marie says:

    Lou – you have to tell someone. If you cannot face telling anyone you know, how about contacting a counsellor http://www.havoca.org/resources/find-a-therapist/ or a local abuse support group – I think that there are links on one the pages on this webpage http://www.havoca.org/resources/support-groups/ or there is a Facebook support group if you are on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/2350801370/?ref=br_tf&qsefr=1 If you are in the UK you could try http://napac.org.uk/?gclid=CjwKEAiArIDFBRCe_9DJi6Or0UcSJAAK1nFvOsc4iLZXeJPZ3YJJe_eAHrechKyBfgBp0h7yT4NwDxoClKjw_wcB Are you married? Do you have a partner? I think a lot of people tell a partner first. I didn’t find my partner was much support, but to be honest, I didn’t really feel I needed support until he decided he was gay and moved out – suddenly everything crashed around me and I needed to talk to other people who had been through it.

    • Anne-Marie says:

      Lou – you also need to tell the police – I can’t believe I didn’t say this in my first post. This man could still be teaching and could still be abusing children.
      (Unlikely to still be teaching, but likely to still be abusing children).

  15. AnonHusband says:

    My wife was sexual abused by her father & her uncle. She was also raped during high school by several boys. When we first got together we would have sex but now 18 years later she doesn’t want sex. We haven’t had sex for 7 or 8 years now. She masturbates her clit but doesn’t like penetration. Back when we did have sex she had issues with penetration & I could only penetrate her for a short while before she couldn’t handle it & I would have to stop. This issue has had a drastic effect on our sex life of course but it has also colored our non-sex life too. Sex, intimacy is a very important part of a relationship & without it our relationship is dying. We don’t know what to do. We need some kind of help but we have no clue on what help to get or where to get it. We can’t go on like this.

  16. Anne-Marie says:

    You need to get help from a sex therapist and fast! The last thing your wife needs is your relationship to break down.

  17. Lynn says:

    I was abused from the age of 10 till 18 by my sisters parter when I was 10 he was 19 my family don’t know this I’m now 40 and he’s dead I started a relationship about 8 months ago and im finding sex so difficult I feel like he pushes me into it but he’s not being bad I know he has need I just don’t know if I will ever be able to have a sexual relationship with him and I can feel myself pulling away even though I know I love him I need help

  18. Tiffany says:

    I read this page and all I could do is cry. For so long I had no idea why I couldn’t be with anyone longer than a couple months and didn’t understand what was wrong with me. My mom’s bf sexually abused me when I was very young. I told her, the next day he was gone, and the abuse was never brought up again throughout the rest of my life.

    Over a decade later, I’m now 23 and I still have very clear issues, but how do I “heal?” I can’t afford therapy and don’t know what to do. I have a boyfriend now who has been my longest relationship (9 months). I love him so much, but never feel the urge to have sex. He blames himself for my disinterest in sex and sometimes when I do make myself have sex, I feel like he is my abuser all over again. I want to have normal sexual urges. I just want to be normal. I’ve felt like there was something off within myself for a very long time and all I’ve ever wanted was to be normal or at least feel right again. Someone, please help me. Tell me how to heal. My heart has been breaking for so long..

    • HAVOCAHAVOCA says:

      I’m sorry for your pain but I’m glad you’ve found us. Healing is a very unique journey. We recommend you read every page on this website, making notes in a journal as you go. These will form the bedrock for any work you feel you need to do.

      There are alternatives to professional help so if you can’t find any thing affordable in our therapy section then perhaps look at joining our forums, searching for a local support group or visiting our resources page for self help.

      Help is out there, there is hope. Just hang on in there

  19. Sade says:

    A part of me feels this is the explanation to what is wrong with me. I’ve read this page over and over again. I was sexually abused as a child for year years…don’t know when it started but I ended it when I started getting aware that it was wrong even though I didn’t fully understand. I was maybe 9 or 10.
    Now in my marriage. Sex is extremely difficult. It’s a struggle. I just simply hate it sometimes. I try and push to be what I’m supposed to be. It’s so frustrating. It’s actually a long sad confused story but sex is mostly still something I would rather avoid all together. It’s not just sex though. I don’t even easily feel things deeply. I might feel it much later after the event or not just even be aware. There are just lots of things.
    Reading this now though, I’m thinking this might be it. All this struggle might just be that I’m suffering from the effects of the abuse. We just assume that it’s done and forgotten but this might just be it.
    There are such therapists here though.I

  20. Sade says:

    Don’t know what to do from here…what next?

    • HAVOCAHAVOCA says:

      It depends where ‘here’ is? There are several ways to proceed; self-help, information, therapy, our forums, groups and organisations. This website is dedicated to each area so you should be able to find what you are looking for. Alternatively drop us an email

  21. Loisita Rodriguez says:

    After being abused by my mother and some of her boy friends I decided to kill myself. I was 10 years old. My mom convinced everyone that I was a troubled girl that always lied about everything. She signed me into a mental hospital were I was placed in with the adults and kept locked away in a room alone for my safety. When they let me go I went back to my mothers house. Nothing had changed except my mom being madder at me. I met the man that would end up taking me soon after getting home. I was now eleven years old and he was nineteen. My mom and he struck up a deal, I would stay with him and he would always help my mother with money. That was the beginning of the real abuse for me. He started with taking pictures and then one night three months after I was living with him he took me to a room in a run down hotel and had me shower and change into a pink nightgown. I remember being so scared…I sat on the window sill with my knees bent under my chin and looked out at a brick wall. He came to me and told me not to be scared, that he would never hurt me. I remember him laying me on the bed and I remember waking up in pain but I don’t remember what happened or what he did to me… That was my introduction to his sick and twisted world…I am not able to have normal human contact. I am afraid to leave my home and have to deal with people so I spend my days home alone going out only when I need food. I have been trying to heal but it’s tough.

    • James Mannion. says:

      I am so sorry too hear that my heart goes out too you. I know exactly what you have been through and ignore anybody who asks you too forgive the animal who stole your childhood. Let hate be your motivation let the righteous indignation at this awful atrocity perpetrated against you drive you to find the strength too forge a good life for yourself. Let the just hatred of your mother (although the term mother seems a travesty when applied to a person I would not trust with a cat) force you too no longer be anybodies victim. If you feel low remember you are not alone people every day make a life after the most important part of our childhood is stolen from us. Every smile, every laugh, every happy and good thought that Im sure is in your head is a victory against your tormentors.

  22. jay says:

    Abused by an older male in his twenties when i was 12 to 15 on a regular basis (we shared a bedroom). My parents were violent alcoholics so this man provided safer/caring with sex as being his return for money and effort. Over the next 40 years I have not been able to have love and sex together. Have needed to find from time to time a similar man to repeat the acts so to speak. As if I was imprinted with the routine during those formative years and cannot break the cycle. Low self esteem and secrecy from a female partner. Have been a workaholic with suicidal thoughts for being unfaithful. Can be caring and do what people think is high caring but not loving nor ever experiencing that. Psychologist says PTSD – given the abusive and unstable environment. But no course of action to deal with it. Feel condemned to a living hell.

  23. James Mannion. says:

    I was sexually abused as a child by my older brother for four years. The effect it had upon me was and still continues too be devastating. I feel worthless and conduct unsafe promiscuous behaviour in order too feel validated or wanted by anybody even if they are just using me for sex. Every time I look in the mirror I dont see a man I see his victim. They say time heals all wounds “They” don’t know what they are talking about. If your going to honest about sexual abuse talk too a counsellor or law enforcement officer. Dont make the mistake I made of thinking your families will love you no matter what. Its a lie end the abuse and lets castrate, incarcerate and purge every trace of these monstrous childhood thieves.

    • socalguy says:

      Hi James. When I read your comment it made me reply for my first time. We can get through this stuff. And live happy lives. I too went the family route thinking they would give me sympathy and companionship. I’m a 40yr old male that was so confused on life. I started smoking crack in 8th grade and abusing my body with unsafe sex and dangerous acts all through high school. Ending up in jail and rehabs for a good 4 yrs in my twenties. Finally started to live and heal then at age 37 I had vivid visions, smells, tastes, like I was there. Of either my Aunt or my Mom sitting her naked body on my face as an infant. I can’t make out the face exactly, they look like twins. For the past few years I’ve been screaming and angry and want the truth. Everyone acts like they knew, but me. My whole family dodges me now, cause they just want to forget about it. I can’t. I try. My whole life is coming together like a puzzle. it all makes sense now. I feel the same way James about the anger and violence that goes through the mind. I’m a sensitive person, so this is extremely hard on me and my girlfriend. How do we let the pain go?

  24. Pasha says:

    The depth of insights in this article woven together with the personal survivor narratives have unified the undulating spectrum of emotions that I have felt, but have never been able to coherently articulate. Through these mosaics of strong survivors of sexual abuse telling their stories and speaking their truths in response to the mind, body, and spirit disharmony that this article profoundly illustrates and communicates from a compassionate and professional nature, I feel that I can begin to be present and hopeful in working towards having a healthy and positive conception and desire towards my own future intimacies. I was raped by my summer camp counselor when I was 12. This was my first sexual experience and was right around when I was discovering that I was gay, and in turn, solidified a tolerance and a subconscious sense of deserving of this abuse throughout the majority of my young adult life because I already felt so alien. I carried this secret with me for the rest of my adolescence, because I felt so guilty, ashamed, and confused. I couldn’t ever make sense of it all because it was never my fault, yet I somehow convinced my twelve-year old self that it was.The promiscuity, detachment during sex, and seeking validation through impersonal sexual situations resonate really strongly with my own journey. I attracted poisonous and manipulative mentally ill individuals with inexcusable behaviors. I was then date raped when I was 19. Reflecting about it all I cannot rationalize how I ended up being in a relationship with this person afterwards and couldn’t ever say no when they wanted to penetrate me. My body never felt like my own and I did not know how claim it, especially to someone who was so aggressive, forceful, and frightening. It reached an unfathomable level of darkness that my only way out was to drop out of college and move away to rebuild my life the way I wanted to. And I did, I recently just graduated with a BA and am now on to more school, yay! I have begun to truly find myself because something like this can strip away all of who you thought you were and use to be. Soon to be 24, I feel that I’ve done so much, too much on my own to find growth and understanding with self forgiveness and self love these past twelve years. What this article has shown me is that I feel that I have learned all that I can on my own and i’m ready to find support and even community centered on surviving sexual abuse. I want every survivor and reader of this article to know that you are so very strong and ever deserving of love, intimacy, and connections on your own terms. Thank you for having this space to share understanding, wisdom, and compassion.

  25. Josh says:

    I’ve been married to my wife for 12 years and we have 3 children together. I’ve known since the beginning of our relationship that she had been sexually abused by her father from the time she could remember until she was 7. I know that as a teen and young adult she was very permiscuous. With the recent death of her estranged father she has started the process of going to therapy and talking about what happened to her. In doing so she has started to question whether or not she might be gay. She says to me that it’s not a sexual thing though. She says that she wants everything between us to stay the same. Minus the sex maybe? I guess I just don’t know what to feel. How can I process this. I realize that I haven’t had to experience that kind of trauma and have no idea what she’s going through, but what do I do?

  26. Robert says:

    I have a girlfriend Of 2 months and she told me what happened to her as a child.
    In the beginning Of our relationship she really was the one that initiated sex/cuddling, but as of late she don’t want to do either.

    In her previous realationships she said the guys she dated usually gave up on her a couple of months in because of her issues (she can get really emotionally detached randomly for no reason sometimes).

    I guess this has made her not able to “heal sexually”, as described in the text.

    This is really taking a toll on me as I’m that kind of person that’s shows most of my affection through physical touches, but I really want to help her and I do love her, even though this most likely will be hard.

    She does not want to go to a therapist yet as she lives at home and she does not want her parents to find out and she gets mad evrytime I mention seeing a therapist.

    So my question is simply, how can I help her now? Until she is ready to see a therapist if I can’t help her enough to heal.

    I’m gonna try to take a step back and let her do the initiating but this is hard as she does almost never want to do anything and as we only see each other on the weekends I almost always want to cuddle and more.

  27. ban says:

    Hi…I wanted to to thank you for the article, it made me feel somewhat understood and I bet many would feel the same. You see… I was sexually abused by my father at the age of 8 through 9 he later turned himself in… At the age of 10 my mom had found another lover who also abused me for 8 years I tried resisting him for all those years, but since my mom had no idea of what was going on she blamed me for not getting along with him.
    He later got found out, but “apologized” so somehow he’s still involved with my family I can’t understand how people can just accept it and I feel as though I have no say in it.
    I’m now 23 and after a year with my psychologist this year was finally able to open up at least a little even. The real problem now is that my mom is sending me off to get married to one of my friends…ha ha seriously!? ts so frustrating every time I try to deny the marriage she tries to convince me otherwise and I’m just scared of disappointing her after everything I put her through so can’t help but do as she says.
    Oh god I don’t wanna get married I always hated the thought of it and the expectations that come with it I wouldn’t be able to get intimate with him and he wouldn’t understand why cause I’d never be able to tell him. I feel like id end up hurting him just to push him away, I’m really scared I don’t want to belong to anyone specially someone that I didn’t choose for myself.
    I told him that I didn’t love ( never loved anyone that way really) and he just said that he’d teach me how to love… And everyone I talk about it to says that maybe id learn how to love him through time…man whatever I’m just ranting now I feel really hopeless I just don’t know what to do…

    Well for anyone reading this ,thank you for taking the time
    And sorry heh.

  28. Bethany says:

    Hi
    I was sexually abused for 2 years when i was 8 and i think it might be having a detrimental effect on my relationship with my boyfriend just now. Im constantly worried that hes going to leave me and hes the closest person i have in my life at the moment but i can feel myself pushing him away. We dont have sex as much anymore and when we do i always end up feeling like its an obligation which i hate because he knows and we stop immediately but then i just feel like a failure because he wasn’t satisfied. Hes not a bad guy, he always reassures me and tells me that he understands. On the occasions where we do successfully have sex, i always lapse into a panic-attack-like state afterwards, hyperventilating, tense, racing heart & thoughts etc and im not sure why because i enjoy sex with him but i cant stand it when he goes to cuddle me afterwards.
    Is there something wrong with me?

  29. Candace Fredrick says:

    I was abused for 8 years by 2 people. Tortured, sexually abused, physically. I’ve disassociated myself from reality I am 20 years old now and I don’t desire sex in any way shape or form. I act like I’m 12 still I feel as I haven’t grown up mentally because of what happened to me. I was in counseling for 6 years doing EMDR I went to foster care jouvie and mental hospitals because I was so afraid of my past that I didn’t really want to face or even look at….. I spend my days playing video games in my alternate reality that I am able to control. It is my only coping skill that has ever worked. I refuse to leave the house I don’t like talking to people unless it’s my family… Sometimes even that is hard to deal with.. I constantly have panic attacks and flash backs and I get completely paralyzed head to toe with fear and it can last hours or minutes. I don’t hate my life I just don’t feel the need to participate in it.

  30. Tom says:

    Good day. I was not abused or molested when I was young. My wife was thou, from the age of 4 going till she was almost 7. She do not want to talk to much about it. The only details I have that it was a good friend of the family who passed away before we meet. Her mother new about the whole thing and never did a thing about it, she told my wige that if her father knew he will kill the man and her oldest brother at that time was in the force and would of caused the guy to go to jail. You will not helieve that neither one of them will talk to each other about the incident. They see each other almost every day. I leave it, but it makes my blood boil. All tgis seems to place a huge strain on our sex live. I’m very sexual and will like to be intimate more often then what we are currently. I tild her to speak to someone she can open upto, but she will not. I know it took a grate deal from ger to confound in me, but I feel she need to brake the shell completely open so the healing can begin. After almost 11 years I feel that I might br reaching out looking for love in other places, but will not let my self to go to that ekstream. I love her to much and see and feel her pain, because her pain is my pain. But she have to start the heeling so she can start to live her life. Thank you for listening to my side. Tom

  31. mika says:

    I was raped by my cousin when i was 3. Im a female. I end up thinking about sex and how it feels like since then and I hate it because i feel unclean and since im living in a religious family, i feel like a sinner. Now im 19 and i have a bf and i always want to have sex with him. Is this normal?

  32. Anony says:

    This is such a difficult legacy of abuse. I was sexually abused by a violent and scary stepfather from 7-11yrs, while being an only child living with mentally ill, alcoholic, neglectful mother. Despite this I went on to have a successful career, gain a Ph.D, be married for 30 yrs and bring up 3 wonderful healthy children; to the outside world everything looked great..but…inside I’m constantly depressed and anxious, I just can’t seem to heal the sexual issues despite counselling. I panicked/dissociated or tried desperately to ‘fake’ it during my marriage and eventually my husband left because I couldn’t ‘meet his sexual needs.’ He never understood what it cost me trying so hard over all those years and that I tried so hard precisely because I loved him. I failed and its cost me my husband, home, and future I hoped for. I tried again in a new relationship but it’s happening again and I can’t expect him to put up with a sexless relationship so he will leave too. I feel the abuse has condemned me to a lonely isolated life and now children are grown up I have nothing. It is devastating to be unable to feel love and intimacy that everyone else takes for granted, I feel worthless and less than human.

  33. Lisa Jensen says:

    I was abused from the age of 2 until 14 by 2 fault members. My husband and I started our relationship with a healthy sex life. We have two children. A 13 year old and an 8 year old. I haven’t been interested in sec for almost 3 years. Understandably my husband is frustrated and annoyed. I have no interest and when he tries I have to shut it down quickly. This leads to arguments and threats. What do I do?

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