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  • Gracie Williams

Is My Sex Life Ruined? | The Impact of Sexual Trauma on Sex

Following a trauma, every single person will react differently, and one’s healing journey will look completely different from the next person. Just as there is no one way in which healing is practiced or experienced, the impact of sexual trauma on sex is also unique to each individual.


For some women, sexual trauma can lower sex drive.


For example, sex can become a metaphorical door to which the memories that have been locked away are suddenly set free, loose in the mind causing an overwhelming sense of distress, anxiety, psychosis, PTSD or all of the above.


Therefore, they find that they avoid sex at all costs and no longer find sex a desirable thing.


Similarly, for some women, sexual trauma can have a huge impact on self-esteem and confidence. They feel so unworthy of any kind of consensual love and sex, they feel “disgusting” or “dirty”, often as a result of how society often perceives victims of rape and sexual assault.


This causes them to lose all confidence and self-esteem within the realm of sex in which sex becomes undesirable, thus lowering their sex drive.


For other women, sex can be perceived as a coping mechanism.


Thus, they may become hyper-sexual. This is often due to the sense of release sex may bring to them, it may help to differentiate between rape and sex, it may give them a sense of control, or more damaging it reinforces poor self-esteem, looking for love in all the wrong places doesn't make one feel good.

Others may become hyper-sexual as it helps them to visualise and feel their self-worth that was taken from them during the sexual trauma. They may have felt unworthy of love and sex but experiencing sex after rape or sexual assault may help them to feel like they are worthy of love and sex.


For others, they may find that the impacts do not happen for a long time due to the way our body and mind protects one another from and during a trauma.


During rape or sexual assault, a woman may, often by no means on purpose, dissociate as a way to cope with the traumatic experience. This is when your mind disconnects from your body and the world around you. This can often cause a lack of memory or broken up memory (disorganised) surrounding the trauma, and while in the moment it may be the best approach, it can often be difficult to reverse the dissociation.


They may go on with their lives as normal, like the trauma hasn’t even happened because they are still in a state of dissociation, their sex life may not be impacted.


However, there may come a time in which the memories re-surface. This can often happen in an event similar to the trauma. For example, although rape is not sex, sex can re-surface the memories.


Even consensual, love-driven sex can cause memories to re-surface and may cause distress, making the trauma come right to the forefront of the mind in which then the sex life may be impacted.


For some women, their sex drive may never be impacted, this too is completely normal.


As discussed, the impacts of sexual trauma are different for everyone and it can be difficult to not compare your journey with others, but it is so important to remember that whichever way you may respond to the trauma it is normal and valid.

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