What to Expect and How to Avoid Re-Traumatization
There are many different reactions that occur in regard to intimacy following a sexual trauma. There are complex reactions that stem from an attempt for self-protection and re-gaining control following this kind of trauma, whether it be conscious or unconscious.
Types of Sexual Trauma Reactions
Some people who have experienced sexual trauma become hypo-sexual and others become hyper-sexual. Both of these reactions have tremendous implications for the healing process as well as current and future intimate partnerships.
Hypo-sexual reactions are characterized by fear, a strong preference for emotional intimacy, and are often accompanied by a reduction in personal hygiene as an attempt to make themselves “unattractive.”
Hyper-sexual reactions are characterized by the desire to re-enact the trauma and have frequent sexual partners. A common characteristic between those who respond hypo-sexually or hyper-sexually is the desire to regain control in their sexual encounters.
How to Move Forward
The goal is to process these traumatic events in ways that allow us to move away from both extremes, to have clear boundaries with intimate partners and to form healthy integration of psychically and emotional intimacy.
Tips for Reintegrating Intimacy in Relationships
Connect using different parts of the intimacy wheel
It is important to feel physically and emotionally connected to your partner. Following a sexual trauma, physical intimacy can be difficult and can often lead to re-traumatization if not approached carefully and considerately. We encourage couples to start re-connecting by using other forms of intimacy found on the intimacy wheel depicted below.
Often times people experience PTSD following a sexual traumatization. Nightmares are a common symptom of PTSD. It can be useful for those experiencing nightmares, in regard to their sexual traumatization, to be intimate in settings outside of the bedroom. It can also be beneficially to be intimate in a setting that is dissimilar to the one where the traumatization occurred.
Clearly communicating physical boundaries
Being intimate following a sexual traumatization is extremely challenging. It is important to have clear and honest conversations with your partner regarding your needs, boundaries, and desires in regard to intimacy.
Reintegrating intimacy into your life, or the life of your partner, following a sexual traumatization can be challenging but is an important step in the healing process. Intimacy and connection can aid that process tremendously. It is crucial that there is clear communication and boundary setting throughout this process.
About Austin Oaks Hospital
Austin Oaks Hospital offers a continuum of psychiatric services for children and adolescents, ages 7-17, and for adults, age 18 and older.
We also provide a women’s wellness program that feature inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment exclusively for women. Trauma therapy from Austin Oaks Hospital, including our women’s trauma recovery program and women’s trauma group, can target trauma and provide gender-specific treatment that gets to the root of the issues.
To schedule a no-cost assessment or for more information, please call 512-440-4800 or contact us online.