TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains topics such as sexual violence and rape.
I had PTSD after getting raped and frequently burst into tears while having sex with my boyfriend. My body remembered what happened, and sometimes it was impossible to enjoy sex. Healing is a long process, but I learned to let go of expectations and show vulnerability to my partner.
My rape story is not like the ones you’d usually read about in the news. Sometimes I still feel it doesn’t even qualify the category. It wasn’t that bad after all. It started with dating the wrong guy, and I might even say the whole stuff was getting close to becoming a new relationship. Although I only met Kevin three times, we headed towards our first sexual experience.
My rape story wasn’t dramatic at all; it happened in an everyday situation. I walked home with the wrong guy on that horrible Saturday evening with consent, you know. He was pushy and demanding, but I tried to enjoy that something in the beginning. A few minutes later, though, I felt I wasn’t ready for this. I told him to slow down. I wasn’t even wet enough. I ordered him to stop. Nothing. Kevin didn’t stop, even after I clearly withdrew my consent. He continued penetrating me while the uncomfortably hardcore techno music in the background etched on my memory forever.
After several trials, I gave up fighting against him. I faked an orgasm, so maybe he finishes it earlier. I felt tears burning my eyes exactly when he experienced a little piece of heaven. Though he misused my body for less than one hour, it took me around 10 months to heal. It’s been a long and painful journey, but I feel good now. I can enjoy sex with my loving partner more than I’ve ever done.
In retrospect, there were some essential steps along the way, which might be valuable to you as well. Though let’s be clear here: there is no secret recipe for healing.
The day after the experience was crucial to me. I cried during the whole day and didn’t restrain my feelings. I remember taking time in the bathtub washing his smell out of my skin and out of my hair. I read and wrote poetry about it. I gave out everything I could.
Even though it helped, I couldn’t escape either depression or PTSD.
Consulting with a psychotherapist
Talking with a professional was the second step on the journey. I felt ashamed, and I needed to talk about my experience with a professional. The psychotherapist helped me to get conscious about what happened was not my fault. She helped me learn the behavioral patterns of potentially abusive people, and she also told me I have PTSD.
I trusted her.
Sex after getting raped
Two months later, I got to know my current boyfriend, Adrian. He’s the first man in my life without abusive patterns, and I’m happy to tell you, we have a relationship that feels good deep in my gut.
Everything was fine until we got to sexuality. I can’t tell you how, but my body didn’t recognize my love, but the movements. It felt like my body replayed the occurrences of that horrible night when I was making love with Adrian. I didn’t have any control over these feelings. The rape experience burst to the surface unconsciously, and it replayed in my mind in the most unexpected moments. Over and over again.
When it happened, I tried to regain control and realize I’m with Adrian now. Even though my mind knew it, my body refused to admit it. This was usually the point when I told Adrian to stop and started to cry. The stronger I tried to get rid of these little demons, the more territory they gained.
The best thing we could do was enjoying sex and stopping it the moment I realized something had gone wrong. We stopped and cuddled every time it didn’t feel quite right.
This kind of safety and intimacy was all I needed. I’m not afraid anymore. The experience might still reoccur at any time, yet if it does, I’ll cry, hug my boyfriend, and talk it over one more time. Life goes on despite my little demons, and I guess I’m getting better at letting it go.
I talked it out
I talked about my story with my friends, boyfriend, a professional, and even people who are not close to me but were open to it.
They listened to me over and over again until there were no unspoken details left. Talking helped me digest the events.
Keep in mind though, that we are all different. According to the latest studies, one can also find healing without sharing the trauma with others.
Let go of perfection.
Even if healing seems to be there, there might be days when the flashback will reoccur. I’m not afraid of those potential occasions anymore. I let go of perfection and learned to embrace my imperfect, slightly damaged, vulnerable, but totally authentic self. We’re not perfect, you know—none of us is.
Give it some time. Then a little more time.
And even more time.
While it’s the most annoying advice, it is the most authentic one: time heals. The feelings will fade, and after months, or maybe years, you’ll get better. I promise. Time will eventually heal your wounds. While it might be tempting to look for a shortcut to enjoy sex after experiencing something terrible, it is not the way to go.
There is no healthy shortcut to healing.