Tips for Dating a Sexual Assault Victim
Dating a sexual assault victim takes patience and empathy. Here are some tips for dating someone who was victimized by a sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, although I believe every month should hold this title. There are moments where I feel optimistic about the gains our society has made towards recognizing the prevalence and aftermath of sexual assault. Yet, there are days where I feel defeated on how far we have to go before sexual abuse survivors such as myself are genuinely and wholeheartedly supported and seen in a validating manner.
Even in my most intimate and trusting relationships, there are moments where I am taken aback by the utter ignorance of my partners. Constantly educating partners on the impact of sexual assault on a victim is not only exhausting but also retraumatizing. So I want to share some helpful tips for dating a victim of sexual assault.
Date a Victim of Sexual Assault Respectfully
Respect Any and All Boundaries
Not all victims of sexual assault will be impacted in the same way; therefore, not all survivors will have the same personal boundaries. Some behaviors that irk and frighten me may excite others.
For example, one of the impacts of my assault is that I despise when people tickle me; it makes me feel as if I have no autonomy, and I become legitimately frightened. Partners may think it is cute when I squirm and plead them to stop when in actuality, this lack of autonomy is reminding me of my previous assault when pleading led to more violence. However, others may think being tickled is enjoyable and perhaps flirtatious.
You do not need to fully understand why your partner has certain boundaries in order to respect them. If your partner asks you to stop, you need to stop.
It can take me a long time to open up and to entirely trust men based on my past history. When I first meet someone, I may come off as guarded and cold, when in actuality, I consider myself an extremely caring and empathetic person (I am a psychotherapist after all).
I think that my experience of emotional abuse has also exacerbated my tendency to be closed off at first. Unconsciously, I think that by being cold (and even a tad rude) when I first meet someone, I am pushing them away before they have the chance to hurt me. This tendency of mine is the ultimate defense mechanism that keeps me protected from further physical and emotional harm.
Victims of sexual assault may also need more time to feel comfortable engaging in sexual activity if that is something of interest to them. When dating victims of sexual assault, you need to respect their timelines.
Never Blame Sexual Assault Victims for Their Sexual Abuse
In the aftermath of my sexual assault, I was blamed for the violence that I had endured. People who I considered friends called me pejorative terms commonly prescribed to women who are deemed hypersexual. When certain men heard about my assault, they accused me of putting myself into a dangerous situation, thus placing the blame entirely on me. This blame was a significant reason I did not go to the hospital and press charges after my assault.
If you are dating someone who has experienced sexual assault, do not place blame on this person. Listen to the side of the story your partner shares (if your partner chooses to) with an open mind. Be there to express validation for whatever emotion your partner may be experiencing, even if you cannot entirely place yourself in your partner's shoes.
Are you a victim of sexual assault? What tips on dating do you have for your partner (present, past, and future)?
O'Grady, H. (2020, April 28). Tips for Dating a Sexual Assault Victim, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2020/4/tips-for-dating-a-sexual-assault-victim