You start to convince yourself you are over it. That it’s in the past and you have moved on. But then, that night, when your spouse or significant other hugs you just a little too tight, or touches your back in just the right way, it all comes flooding back. You remember everything in vivid detail, and that person you should feel safe with, the person you love and trust with your life, you can’t stand to have them touch you. All because of someone else’s actions. That person, has stolen your security. They have turned a positive relationship full of love, into a negative situation full of fear. It is not our fault. Until you have been in that same situation, you cannot judge someone else’s actions. You need to love them how they are. If they shy from your touch, don’t feel rejected. It is not your touch they fear, but the memory of someone else’s . They will come to you when they feel ready. Make them feel loved, make them feel safe. Just love us, and we will love you back the very best we can.
— Caitlin Beach

Understanding what your significant other has gone through and is feeling creates a safer environment, which in turn creates trust and trust can create healing and hope. The following quotes were taken from anonymous responses to the question "How has being sexually assaulted affected your romantic interactions with others in regards to casual dating, current, or past relationships in anyway emotionally, physically, or otherwise?"

I decided to create this project to try and better understand the different ways being a survivor of sexual assault impacts romantic relationships after reading a comment my friend wrote online about being in a relationship as a survivor of sexual assault. Thank you to my models, the beautiful couple Karina Segura and Ryan Gale, and thank you to all of you who submitted your anonymous experiences, emotions, and opinions.


THE VERY BEST WE CAN 

It wasn’t until I married and experienced a caring, committed and consensual monogamous relationship that I finally understood that what had happened was entirely his doing, his fault, and not mine as I had always believed. I realized then that something had been stolen from me under the guise of flirtation, validation, and attention. He knew he had the ability to manipulate the situation the way he wanted because of my own lack of self confidence and self esteem. It didn’t matter if I had flirted with him or consented to spending time with him or drinking a few wine coolers with him; no matter what my poor choices had been, he stole, snatched, robbed something from me that wasn’t his to take.
 
It affects my ability to trust men’s intentions, in a way that’s not always fair to them; they might and sometimes do have perfectly decent intentions. However, it lets me be more aware and appreciative of guys who are honest, patient, and kind in their intentions. I’m almost grateful to know in such a clear way what I do and don’t want because of my experiences.
 
There are some effects of rape that are obvious to others, but there is also a lot of things rape victims feel and think that are extremely hard to express into words. It’s like you look in the mirror and your whole perception of yourself and your worth is shattered and picking up those pieces is a really painful and hard process.
 
I remember always feeling unworthy of anyone with genuine intentions of me. It was hard for me to understand that that existed. Being young and naive when I was raped, it was the only thing I really knew about sex, and the idea of it scared me and made me very anxious about being with anyone else in that way. The first time I had sex after this experience, I was still young and pretty naive. I remember being really curious and wanted to see what it was like to maybe be with someone in a positive way... and after it happened, I never wanted to do it again. It scared me so bad that I broke up with the guy. Usually after I would start any type of romantic relationship with someone, I would end it quickly out of fear.
 
After a lot of therapy, personal growth, and healthy relationships, I now feel like I really understand the beauty and the bond of being with someone physically and emotionally. I still have a very difficult time letting people in and being vulnerable. There is still sometimes a small voice in my head that tells me I am not good enough. But I see and am experiencing how beautiful relationships really are and have finally come to the point where I get that he was wrong. He was wrong for hurting me and making me feel like I would be worth nothing for anyone. He was wrong for putting up a blindfold so I couldn’t see or understand that pure love, trust, and positive sexual, emotional expression existed. But it does. So fuck him.
 
The guilt and shame I felt kept me from fully loving and accepting myself which in turn made me feel that I didn’t fully deserve the love and attention and trust that I received from my husband. Fortunately, love based in trust and commitment and a mutual concern for each other’s happiness can help to repair our brokenness and make us whole again. It is the kind of love I have been fortunate enough to know in my marriage.
 
I always felt obligated to give guys what they wanted. I was extremely desperate for male acceptance. I didn’t understand that men could actually like me without being physical.
 
I ended up marrying a guy who started out as my friend with benefits. He made me want to be better. Before we ever thought of dating, he told me he wasn’t interested in dating someone like me with a party girl reputation. I think I took it as a challenge and completely changed who I was to win him over. I lost any confidence I had in the process. Even after we were married, I was obsessed with losing weight, dressing better, being the prefect Mormon wife. Three years into my marriage I realized I was extremely unhappy. I started to resent my husband, and felt the same uneasy, creeped out feeling I had as a kid whenever he touched me. Now that I’m working on getting divorced, I worry that I’ll resort to my old ways end up settling with the wrong person again. I get really pessimistic about men as a whole and I’m secretly overly sensitive, offended about any kind of “dirty” or “crude” behavior they exude. I also have a hard time convincing myself that I deserve to be with a really good guy that I find attractive. Sometimes it’s also hard for me to feel like I fit in with “normal” people. I have a lot of repressed memories that pop up and make me feel small. Thankfully, through studying psychology I’ve been able to realize that I do have a chance at real happiness.
 
I can’t just talk to a guy anymore. I don’t trust new males that come into my life. I used to be able to wear normal clothing, now I wear some baggy cardigan or hoodie wherever I go. I guess you could say I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. As if what happened to me was my fault when I know it’s not true. I don’t like going anywhere by myself, I always have to have another girl with me and I don’t like being left alone. When I go on dates, it’s hard for me to relax and enjoy myself. I’m constantly watching my surroundings I have to be able to protect myself... the last person I trusted to do that didn’t.
 
Casual dating is hard for me. I kind of stay away from it. I’ve never had a one night stand. I’m too afraid. I’ve had to find myself again and it’s the most embarrassing thing in the world when someone asks me how I lost my virginity. So, I lie.
 
I have become more aware of people’s intentions and have become stronger. I wouldn’t say it’s because of this negative experience, but in finding myself throughout the next year or so after. I have come to love who I am and won’t take shit from anyone who tries to challenge that.
 
I was molested as a young teen, I have a strong aversion to touch. I can warm up to it and enjoy physical contact and intimacy with my partner, but if I am touched or caught off guard by a move for intimacy, my first instinct is to scratch, kick, hit, whatever to make them stop.
 
I can’t have sex with my husband without feeling trapped, scared or bursting into tears. I hyperventilate and just want to hide. I know my husband would never hurt me, but because of my past experiences with abuse, they’ve tainted what I wish could be a special thing with my husband.
 
I remember dating people after my abuse and constantly feeling scared and not wanting to be touched. I was just expecting someone else to hurt me again. My husband is constantly having to reassure me that everything is okay and that no one is going to hurt me again.

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