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Counseling/Sexuality after sexual violence.

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Hi! I asked this question in another forum, and was directed here to better suit my question/needs.

I've been struggling my whole life to discover my own sexuality and to feel comfortable with my own body. I was the victim of rape at a very young age (5), and sexual assault multiple times throughout my life (4, 7, 8-13, 15, 18).

I'm a textbook rape/sexual assault survivor, I guess you could say. I became hyper-aware of sex/sexuality at an extreme;y young age, and started playing with myself at the age of 5 or so. But my experience at the age of seven tore away the connection I had to my sexuality and sexual desires. I was in a play area at Burger King and a 13-year-old boy ended up trying to rape me after he had  put his finger in my vagina and touched my chest and kissed me. At first I liked the physical attention I got, but realized something was wrong and was able to escape. After that incident, I was ashamed of my body's desires and was unable to satisfy them. I blocked the rape that happened at the age of five and was finally able to remember two years ago. I have always had an unhealthy obsession with attention from men, and have always felt that my only hope for the validation of my life was in men finding me sexually desirable. And there are a whole host of other affects that are typical of my experiences.

It wasn't until very recently that I've really come to understand the impact these things have had on my individual sexuality. I haven't been able to pleasure myself since the age of seven, and since then I've always had to depend on a man to do it for me. I'm uncomfortable in my sexual encounters, I'm uncomfortable with my body. It's like it doesn't even belong to me. There's a block somewhere, my body tells me what it wants and my mind just can't/won't deliver.

A good friend of mine is wanting to buy me a vibrator (I live 300 miles away from my boyfriend and I haven't had sex in over two months- and I am unable to pleasure myself when that need arises), but I wonder if I will feel comfortable enough, alone in my own bed, to ever actually use it. I would lean toward no. I don't even like being naked, not walking around naked in my house, not getting naked to take a shower, or even getting naked to have sex with my boyfriend.

Unfortunately, this is extremely common after instances of sexual assault. There is a huge sense of shame and guilt and detachment associated with the body and sexuality.

My question is, how do I jump-start creating a connection with my sexuality? I'm 22 years old and have never been able to induce an orgasm for myself, and have rarely ever tried in the first place. And when I tried, I made myself feel uncomfortable and then destroyed my drive. I feel so disconnected from my body. I feel so ashamed of my sexuality and trying to embrace it has been a struggle that I've gotten almost nowhere with. I enjoy sex, and have achieved orgasm from it as well. It's not that I'm not sexually-inclined, it's that I have been unable to truly connect to my individual, personal sexual identity.

I know that being able to do this will elevate my and my boyfriend's sex life as a couple, but equally important is my own ability to embrace and to truly, intimately KNOW and understand my body.

Are there any tips you have for bridging that gap? Is there anything I can do that will truly help me to understand and embrace my body?

Let's be frank, when I'm horny I want to be able to stimulate an orgasm whether or not my boyfriend is here with me. And currently I feel so uncomfortable, weird, ashamed that I don't even try. I just sit there until it goes away. And when I do try, it goes away anyway.

Men throughout my life have tried to tell me that my body is not my own. And for the most part, they've succeeded. Please help me take my body back.

Answer
Hello Mary,

You are right to focus on reclaiming your body! My suggestion on how to do that is to go to a belly dance class. If you are not familiar with belly dance, you might feel like I am asking you to learn how to be seductive. Not at all. ANY dance will help you to be in your body, move your body, and also feel your feelings because after all, dance is the expression of your soul through the music and your body.

What it may also do is provide you with a safe place to explore your feelings, your relationships with women (who are often safer than men because the sexual component is removed), and learn to appreciate women's bodies in all shapes and sizes. When you drape pretty, shiny things on, it's hard not to feel beautiful. When you dance, you shine. When all that comes together, sex naturally flows from that.

If this is a turn-off, think of what might allow you to have a whole person experience. Is it sports? Music? Reading? Travel? Whatever it is, do that. Give your whole self to it. Do it  in a way that is shared with others. I think you will start to feel more of a whole person rather than fragmented parts where the sexual part of you is such a big piece.

Good luck,

Laura Giles

P.S. If you are inclined to disregard this suggestion, please google "belly dance self-esteem" before you walk away. I think you will find that MANY women with a sexual assault history have reclaimed their lives in this way.

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Laura Giles, MSW

Expertise

I can answer questions about sexual assault, sex offending, domestic violence, substance abuse, acudetox, hypnosis, biofeedback, neurofeedback, ADHD, relationship issues, and run of the mill mental health questions.

Experience

Extensive inpatient, outpatient and criminal justice experience.

Education/Credentials
BS counseling, MSW social work

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