Sexual Effects Inventory

The Source of this section is taken from: “The Sexual Healing Journey”

by Wendy Maltz

1. ATTITUDES ABOUT SEX
Sexual abuse generates negative, false attitudes about sex. These become hidden from your consciousness. You may have difficulty separating abusive sex from healthy sex. Offenders contaminate victims, imprinting them with an abusive way of thinking about sex, a sexual abuse mind-set. This mind-set can affect every aspect of a victim’s sexuality: sexual drive, sexual expression, sex roles, intimate relationships, knowledge of sexual functioning, and sense of morality.

How have you been affected by this sexual abuse mind-set? Put a check star (*) in front of each statement you agree with and a question mark (?) in front of each statement you sometimes or partially agree with (statements that don’t fit either category should be left blank).

  • I feel sex is a duty I must perform
  • I feel sex is something I do to get something else
  • In sex, one person wins and one person loses
  • Sex feels dirty to me
  • Sex feels bad to me
  • Sex feels secretive to me
  • I equate sex with sexual abuse
  • Sexual energy seems uncontrollable
  • Sex is hurtful to me
  • I believe sex is something you either give or you get
  • I feel sex is power to control another person
  • I believe having sex is all that matters
  • I think sex benefits men more than women
  • I think people have no responsibility to each other during sex
  • I think sexual desire makes people act crazy
  • I think males have a right to demand sex from women
  • Sex means danger to me
  • I believe sex is a way to escape painful emotions
  • Sex is humiliating to me or others
  • I feel sex is addictive
  • I feel sex is a game
  • I believe sex is a condition for receiving love

2.SEXUAL SELF-CONCEPT
Sexual abuse, and its consequences, can unconsciously influence how you feel about yourself and about sex. You may now see yourself as sexually damaged, suffering a poor sexual self-concept. Or you may have developed a self-concept that is inflated, where you believe you’re more powerful as a result of sex.

Knowing how you view yourself as a sexual person is fundamental to eventually making changes in your sexual behaviour. Put a check mark in front of each statement you agree with and a question mark (?) in front of each statement you sometimes or partially agree with.

  • I am an easy sexual target
  • My sexuality is disgusting
  • I hate my body
  • There is something wrong with me sexually
  • I am confused whether I’m gay or straight
  • I feel I will lose control if I let myself go sexually
  • I have no sense of being sexual at all
  • I feel like a victim in sex
  • I am sexually inadequate
  • I don’t like certain sexual parts of my body
  • I want sex for all the wrong reasons
  • I have to stay in control during sex
  • I don’t have a right to deny my body to any partner who wants it
  • I can be loved only to the extent I can give sexually
  • I am oversexed
  • I have no right to control sexual interaction
  • My primary blue is in sexually serving a partner
  • If I want sex, I’m as sick as a sexual offender
  • I blame myself for my past sexual abuse
  • I deserve whatever I get sexually
  • I wish I were the opposite sex
  • I am inferior to other people because of my sexual past
  • I am damaged goods
  • I can easily be sexually dominated
  • I’d be happiest in a world where sex didn’t exist
  • I couldn’t live in a world without sex
  • I am a sexual performer
  • There are some things I have done sexually that I can never forgive myself for
  • I am a sick person sexually
  • I’m not loveable for who I am, only for what I do sexually
  • I am a sexual object
  • I feel bad about my gender
  • I do not believe a particular sexual preference itself is a negative effect of sexual abuse to be overcome, It’s the confusion about sexual preference and orientation that can be troublesome

3.AUTOMATIC REACTIONS TO TOUCH AND SEX
Sexual abuse can create a conditioned way of reacting to touch and sex. Some survivors get panicky, avoid sexual possibilities, and want to run the other way when sexually approached. Others freeze and feel helpless and unable to protect themselves. Still others get overexcited and may recklessly seek dangerous sexual encounters. You may experience spontaneous reactions to sex that cause you to numb sexual feelings, to divorce your mind from what is happening physically, or to become sexually aroused in inappropriate ways. Sexual settings and contact can bring back negative feelings associated with abuse.

Flashbacks to sexual abuse may arise and interfere with sexual relating and satisfaction. Put a check mark in front of each statement you agree with and a question mark (?) in front of each statement you sometimes or partially agree with.

  • I am afraid of sex
  • I have little interest in being sexual
  • I am afraid of some sexual body parts
  • I am preoccupied with sex
  • I withdraw from sexual possibilities
  • I am bothered by sexual thoughts I can’t control
  • When I get horny, I feel extremely anxious
  • I feel especially powerful when I’m having sex
  • I get sexually excited at times when I shouldn’t be
  • I constantly look for sexual opportunities
  • I believe that when a person touches me, he or she wants to have sex
  • I lose all power to protect myself when sexually approached
  • I have unhealthy sexual interests and desires
  • I often have flashbacks to past sexual abuse during sex
  • I get panicky feelings when touched
  • I feel emotionally distant during sex
  • During sex my mind feels separate from my body
  • I feel like I’m another person when I have sex
  • I feel very nervous during sex
  • I experience negative feelings such as fear, anger, shame, guilt, or
  • nausea with sexual touch
  • I get sexually aroused when I don’t want to be
  • I often feel emotionally pained after sex
  • I am very sensitive to certain smells, sights, sounds or sensations during sex

4.SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR
Sexual abuse can shatter our capacity for healthy sex. You may have been taught abusive patterns of sexual behaviour and introduced to unhealthy, compulsive, abnormal sexual activities. Now as a reaction you may associate your sexual expression with secrecy and shame. Some survivors may withdraw from sex, preventing any fresh discovery of healthy sex. Other survivors may become preoccupied and driven by sex. Sometimes survivors reenact the abuse in an unconscious attempt to resolve deep-seated emotional conflict related to the original abuse.

These reactions need to be identified so you can better understand your behaviour and eventually work toward healthy changes. Put a check mark in front of each statement you agree with and a question mark (?) in front of each statement you sometimes or partially agree with.

  • I isolate myself from other people socially
  • I am unable to initiate sex
  • I avoid situations that could lead to sex
  • I am unable to say no to sex
  • I feel I have no physical boundaries when it comes to sex
  • I need to be under the influence of alcohol or other dugs to really enjoy sex
  • I spend money to have sex
  • I feel confused about how and when to be sexual
  • I engage in medically risky sexual behaviour (using no protection)
  • I engage in sex for economic gain
  • I have had more sexual partners than was good for me to have
  • I act out sexually in ways hurtful to others
  • I manipulate others into having sex with me
  • I engage in sadomasochistic sex
  • I have more than one sexual partner at a time
  • I become involved with sexual partners who are primarily involved with someone else
  • I use fantasies of sexual abuse to increase sexual arousal
  • I feel addictively drawn to certain sexual behaviour
  • I feel compelled to masturbate frequently
  • I engage in secretive sexual activities
  • I engage in sexual behaviours that could harm me
  • I engage in sexual behaviours that could have negative consequences for others
  • I have sex when I really don’t want to
  • I am confused as to what is appropriate and inappropriate in touching
  • I often rely on abusive pornography to turn me on
  • I find it hard to say no to unwanted sexual touch

5.Intimate Relationships
Sexual abuse influences a survivor’s ability to establish and maintain healthy sexual relationships. Abuse can interfere with our ability to make good choices. Some survivors may have difficulty selecting partners who are emotionally supportive. Other survivors may be unable to trust and feel safe with intimate partners who do care. Survivors may fear intimacy or have a limited capacity to experience closeness. The sexual difficulties a survivor may have as a result of abuse often create emotional and sexual problems for the partner.

Knowing where relationship difficulties lie, and how abuse has caused problems, can help you work with your partner to solve individual concerns and to build a more intimate relationship together. Put a check mark in front of each statement you agree with and a question mark (?) in front of each statement you sometimes or partially agree with. I am drawn to partners who demand sex from me.

  • I am afraid of being emotionally vulnerable in relationships
  • I am unable to attract the kind of partner that would be good for me to have
  • I feel obligated to please my partner in sex
  • My intimate relationships always fail
  • I have difficulty being intimate and sexual at the same time
  • I don’t trust that a partner could really be faithful to me
  • I hide my real feelings in an intimate relationship
  • A partner would reject me if he or she knew all about my sexual past
  • I experience difficulty initiating sexual contact with a partner
  • My intimate partner is continually unhappy with our sex life
  • Our relationship would end if we stopped having sex
  • I want, but am unable, to remain faithful to one intimate partner
  • My intimate partner reminds me of a sexual offender
  • My intimate partner perceives me as sexually abusive
  • I want to get away from my partner immediately after sex
  • My partner feels sexually rejected by me
  • My partner feels sexually pressured by me
  • I have difficulty communicating my sexual wants and needs
  • I am afraid to be emotionally close with my partner

6.Sexual Functioning Problems
Sexual abuse can create specific problems with sexual functioning. Abuse may have taught you unhealthy patterns of responding to sexual stimulation. Stress and anxiety that originated with abuse may continue to shadow your sexual activity. Over time these sexual problems interfere with intimacy and long-term sexual satisfaction.

As you identify problem areas in how you function sexually now, you are also identifying specific sexual concerns to work on in the healing process. Put a check mark in front of each statement you agree with and a question mark (?) in front of each statement you sometimes or partially agree with.

  • I find it difficult to become sexually aroused
  • I have trouble experiencing sexual sensations
  • I do not like to touch my genital area
  • I have difficulty achieving orgasm when I stimulate myself
  • I have difficulty having an orgasm with a partner
  • I lack desire for sex
  • I am hardly ever interested in sex
  • I over control sexual interactions
  • My orgasms seem more related to relieving tension than to feel pleasure
  • My orgasms are not very pleasurable
  • Sex in general is not very pleasurable
  • I am limited in the types of sexual activity I feel comfortable with
  • I do not like touch to my breasts
  • I am unable to be vaginally penetrated
  • I experience pain or discomfort with vaginal penetration
  • I orgasm very fast

Men

  • I have difficulty getting or maintaining a firm erection
  • I have difficulty ejaculating
  • I ejaculate very fast
  • What you can learn from the inventory.

Now that you have completed the Sexual Effects Inventory, go back and review your responses.

Remember: There is no grading system, no correct set of answers. Rather you are looking to identify the effects of abuse on your current sexual self. For many survivors, taking the inventory leads to self-discovery, self-awareness. It’s another step in your journey. Although your inventory is unique, you may learn from, or feel support from, the following reactions from other survivors.

“I didn’t realize how much my sexuality has been affected ”

Many survivors feel upset after taking the inventory. You may be surprised and even distressed at the number of items you have checked. “I have checked nearly half of all items in each category,” a survivor said.

You may be shocked that you checked items in so many different categories. Yet checking items forces survivors to overcome their denial. Real problems exist. By acknowledging them you can work on them.

“Different items are more important to me than others ”

The impact of particular sexual effects can vary from person to person. A repercussion that is merely annoying to one survivor might be extremely upsetting to another. A lesbian survivor who feels fear when seeing an erect penis may find this sexual repercussion unimportant. But the same fear might be extremely upsetting to a heterosexual woman or a gay man.

Some items such as, “I engage in sexual behaviours that could harm me”…signal immediate danger. You will need to give these kinds of statements a higher priority in your sexual recovery.

“I see trends and patterns in my responses ”

Many survivors see trends in one or two directions: feeling negative about and withdrawing from sexual activity, or becoming compulsive and engaging in a lot of sexual activity.

“I can see that I tend to withdraw from sex, even though I crave getting touched” a survivor remarked.

Some survivors notice trends in both directions.

“I feel compelled to masturbate a lot, yet I withdraw from having sex with my partner,” another survivor commented.

Many of the items in the inventory overlap. Our attitudes about sex influence our sexual experiences and behaviour, and vice versa. You may notice patterns and links in the types of items you checked and how they relate to each other.

In the following statement by a woman survivor, I have added words in brackets to indicate the different categories of sexual effects she reveals.

When I reached high school and college I began to experience intense fear whenever I was asked out (automatic reactions). I was sure I would end up in a struggle over intercourse, even on the first date. I thought that was all these boys and men wanted from me (sexual attitudes). I feared the idea of having sex with anyone (automatic reactions). I thought sex as banal, ridiculous, something for weak-minded folk (sexual attitudes). I never once went out on a date (sexual behaviour). My fear created a complete lack of interest in sex, dating, and physical contact (relationships, sexual functioning problems). I became a total bookworm (self-concept).

Because items relate to one another, when you do begin to make changes in one aspect of sexual healing, you will automatically be making improvements in others.

“My responses are different than they would have been in the past ”

Survivors often comment that they would have marked the inventory differently had they taken it one, five, ten or twenty years ago. Sexual repercussions can show up in different ways in different stages of your life. For instance, many survivors experience a period of high sexual activity in their dating years, then encounter problems with sexual interest and functioning only after they have become involved in a committed, long-term relationship. Retaking the inventory at different times can help you see how sexual repercussions of abuse may have changed over time and point to areas where you are making progress.

A survivor gave an example of age-related changes:

As a child aged ten to fifteen, I engaged in what now would seem like excessive masturbation and stimulation of myself with objects. Then, in my teens, I didn’t like to touch myself. Now I prefer to masturbate only when I am feeling good about myself.

And another survivor said, “It’s good to see that I’ve stopped using sex to try and fill an empty feeling in my heart. ”

You may want to take the Sexual Effects Inventory again in the future. It can be a powerful resource to refer to at different times in your sexual recovery, helping you identify areas for change. The inventory can also give you a way of evaluating the progress you make in your sexual healing journey. In taking this inventory you may have gotten your first real awareness of how profoundly the abuse may have harmed you sexually.

If you are feeling upset by what you’ve learned, remember that yours is a common reaction and a crucial one. You may need to grieve your losses and to feel the emotional pain and anger. As we proceed through this book, you will have a chance to address all the concerns you have checked.

You will grow, and your current outrage at how much you were hurt will help fuel your will to heal.

21 Responses to Sexual Effects Inventory

  1. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me.
    Thanks!

  2. Avatarhelen says:

    This is very relevant.

  3. AvatarMark Hasenfus says:

    Wish i would read this a long time ago.

  4. AvatarGirada says:

    Just what I was looking for to help me through the healing process. Thank you.

  5. AvatarElaine says:

    I don’t feel so alone now thanks

  6. Avatarhelen says:

    what if it is religious
    sex is to become one flesh and love each other(free from power,control and greed) but experience otherwise sex as control without ur permission to believe so and are deceived that would be the agreement when it is easier said then done

    • HAVOCAHAVOCA says:

      I’m not sure I entirely understand your comment so forgive me if my answer seems off piste.

      Whether the motive of the sexual abuse is religious or not, healing can still take place using the sexual effects inventory as a guide. Like any type of abuse, survivors need to take what is applicable to them and discard things that arent viable or appropriate for their journey. Even a physical abuse survivor can learn a lot from a book about healing from sexual abuse. I’m not suggesting that ritual abuse or abuse in the realm of a religious scenario isn’t as harmful or damaging as any other type of abuse but more often than not, the advice found on these pages are abuse agnostic.

  7. AvatarJulie says:

    I’ve read this thoroughly and I feel parts of it could have been written by me. I recognize myself and my reaction to any sexual contact. It’s good to know that it’s “normal” behaviour for someone who has been abused and that there are ways to cope.

  8. AvatarLaci Dale says:

    Thank you…

  9. AvatarRochelle Holland says:

    Oh my goodness! Now that makes sense! Thank you so much for putting this guide online! I tried for too long to understand the whys behind some of the behaviors. Now I don’t feel so odd any more.

  10. AvatarShannon says:

    I’ve been married for 6 years but have had the same problem with every partner. I have a deep fear of sexual expression in front of another person. Even though I know my husband would never make fun of me and just wants me to be happy, I’m still so afraid to just relax and let go. I was abused as a child, but I’ve never really thought it was related as I don’t think about it a lot. I would love to be able to have the freedom of what I imagine other people have. Also, if you’re wondering, even by myself, I’m only a little more expressive.

  11. AvatarJoshua D. says:

    As an adult male survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I found that several items in each category applied directly to me. I was somehow able to marry, father children, AND stay married despite all of the lasting effects of my abuse. Now, with PTSD, Bipolar I Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and OCD on top of my sexual dysfunction, the “staying married” part has been especially difficult. After reading this and taking inventory, I’m going to reveal my abuse to my therapist and my medical practitioner to see if perhaps there are any options for “healing”. My mother took many facts about my abuse to her grave, so I don’t know much about it. I have “forgiven” the person I was told was my abuser, as I am a devout Christian (not the self-righteous, judgemental kind), but the effects are lasting. My 30’s have proven to be the most devastating years of my life thus far, so I have to find some relief somehow.

  12. AvatarSteve says:

    Thanks for putting this inventory online – at the age of 63 for the first time I can honestly admit to some things about myself I have been in denial about. Like some others, I wish I’d seen this years ago – but maybe I wouldn’t have been able to accept it then.

  13. AvatarLiza says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever been abused sexually, but still I was able to relate to a lot of this. I am 36 years old and a virgin. I guess it just boils down to not being able to trust other people’s intentions. There are so many ‘users’ out there who see it as a game. I feel like if I had sex with someone and they bolted, I would never recover. I avoid any situation that could lead to sex, like dating. This is a problem because I always wanted to be a wife and mother. It’s looking like it will never happen. I am just really afraid of getting close to someone and losing control. I am usually attracted to people who pressure me or think I’m ridiculous. I am able to resist the pressure, but then I really miss the person when they go find someone else, even though they didn’t really love me. I really want to be able to get close to people, but I feel broken.

  14. AvatarShannon Sellers says:

    Wow..I am 45yo survivor and I can really identify with much of this. I have been married for 25 years but I was very promiscuous prior to that and I have been obsessed about cheatin/fantasizing for 25 years. I have a very understanding husband but he is at the end if his rope. I have a lot of difficulty with initiating sex but I fantasize about other men. I used to masterbate rather than have sex with him. I could go on and on with how much I identify. I am searching for help…Grateful for this site. Thank you

    • HAVOCAHAVOCA says:

      You aren’t alone. As adults we are complicated beasts! Combine that with an abusive past and things get even more complicated.
      I’m glad you’ve found this site useful.

  15. Avataramina says:

    hi can u plz tell me about sexual effects inventory……..is it a standardized tool to measure sexual abuse effects as i want to use it in my research

    • HAVOCAHAVOCA says:

      No I don’t believe it is a standardised recognised tool. It is taken from a book written by a very well known author who specialises in supporting victims of abuse.

  16. Avataramina says:

    hi can anybody help me in getting reference article for this inventory….i want to use in my research

  17. AvatarRandi says:

    I agree with other comments, this was the most useful website I have found for adult survivors of child abuse in understanding sexual dysfunction and specific areas that need to be addressed. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom for specific excersizes to help heal in each of these areas. Thank-You, for this!

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