The Mighty Logo

What to Know About Intimacy After Experiencing Sexual Assault

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I have been sexually assaulted twice in my life, once at 13 by an older boy, and again at 23 by an ex-boyfriend of mine. Both undoubtedly shaped my relationship with sex, intimacy and physical affection for the rest of my life.

• What is PTSD?

Intimacy after sexual assault is different for everyone. For me, I had no interest in being intimate with anyone for over a year after my second assault. When I decided to reintroduce that aspect into my life, it was with someone I had previously been intimate with and trusted on a physical level. The experience was enjoyable and I felt safe during it, but I’ve learned that every time is different.

Now that it’s been several years since my most recent assault, I have been able to heal on multiple levels. I’m in therapy for my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I’m learning to let go of guilt and shame that I shouldn’t hold. I’ve learned to trust again and I am in a relationship with my partner of over a year. Although I trust my partner completely, I still find myself having a hard time being intimate with him. Not always, but enough to create doubt in my head if I’m actually getting better or not. Some days I’m fine, we can be flirty and affectionate and engage in intimacy. Other days, being touched triggers me, or something happens during intimacy that triggers me. 

Fortunately, my partner is completely understanding of my PTSD. He will check in with me to see how I’m feeling before, during and after. He’s learned most of the signs that I’ve become triggered. He never makes me feel bad about not being able to be intimate. Most of all, he makes me feel safe and loved.

Sexual assault can leave lifelong mental damage — damage that can affect us in all aspects of our lives. Commonly, this is in physical intimacy. However intimacy after sexual assault looks for you, make sure it’s right for you and your partner. For some, that means being open with your partner about your past history with assault. For others, that means dealing with it privately. How will you know when it’s right for you? Not rushing into intimacy and feeling safe with your partner are key.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Originally published: June 2, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home