The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 4

SexualHJ_04

After my little break over the weekend, I’m now ready to continue with my sexual healing journey. Today’s chapter is called “identifying the sexual impact”. The book identifies six areas that will typically be affected by sexual abuse.

  1. Attitudes about sex
  2. Sexual self-concept
  3. Automatic reactions to touch and sex
  4. Sexual behavior
  5. Intimate relationships
  6. Sexual functioning problems

Today’s part of the journey will be for me to identify what kinds of impact my experiences of sexual abuse have had. The book provides a checklist with common impacts for each area, which I will not reproduce here, but if you are interested, the book is only about $10 / £7, so not really expensive to get. Instead of reproducing the whole list, I’ll list only the items that apply to me, personally, and add my own.

So the big question of this chapter is “What kind of impact has the sexual abuse had on me?” Here are my answers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1. How sexual abuse has impacted my attitudes about sex:

  • I feel like sex is a form of punishment.
  • Sex feels dirty and degrading to me.
  • I think sexual desire makes people act unpredictably.
  • I feel like sex is something I have to endure until it’s over.
  • I feel like sex is something to pleasure men.
  • In my mind sex and sexual abuse are the same thing.
  • I feel like sex is aggressive and hurtful.
  • I feel like sex gets dangerous if I don’t comply.
  • I feel like sex is a way for one person to dominate another.
  • Sex feels humiliating.

2. How sexual abuse has impacted my sexual self-concept:

  • I feel like I am an easy sexual target.
  • I feel like sex is the one thing I can be of use for.
  • I feel like my sexuality is disgusting.
  • I hate my body’s sexual responses.
  • I feel like I want sex for all the wrong reasons.
  • I feel like I don’t have the right to deny my body to anyone who wants it.
  • I feel like I am still a girl, sexual development wise.
  • I feel like I am either inviting abuse, or have no sense of being sexual at all.
  • I feel like if I want sex, I want abuse, and am as sick as an abuser.
  • I feel like I deserve whatever I get during sex.
  • I feel like I’m inferior to people because of my sexual history.
  • I feel like I am damaged goods.
  • I feel like I am really disgusting for having done certain sexual things.

3. How sexual abuse has impacted my automatic reactions to touch and sex:

  • I normally have little interest in being sexual.
  • I sometimes seek out inappropriate sexual possibilities.
  • I am bothered by sexual thoughts I can’t control.
  • I get sexually aroused by thoughts of sexual violence and abuse.
  • I have a sexual response in situations where I shouldn’t.
  • I easily misunderstand touch to mean that somebody wants sex.
  • I have flashbacks of sexual abuse during sex.
  • I feel emotionally distant during sex.
  • I experience negative feelings (shame, disgust with myself, anger, hate…) when I’m done having sex.
  • I experience physical pain after having sex.

4. How sexual abuse has impacted my sexual behavior:

  • I am unable to say no to sex.
  • There are no limits to what I would do during sex.
  • I feel confused about how and when to be sexual.
  • I manipulate others into having sex with me.
  • I don’t care whether sexual partners are involved with someone else, if they are in the right place at the right time.
  • I had more sexual partners than was good for me to have.
  • I feel confused about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate touch within the family.
  • I often can’t stop myself from engaging in sexually suggestive or explicit sexual behavior within the family.

5. How sexual abuse has impacted my intimate relationships:

  • I have no interest in proper intimate relationships and have never had one.
  • I engage in casual sex that I invite myself, because I’m afraid of letting someone else determine time and place, knowing I am unable to say no.
  • I want nothing to do with people I have had sex with, because I find them disgusting for having had sex with me.
  • I feel like anyone who wants to have sex with me is a despicable person and a pedophile, because I still think of myself as a little girl and because I definitely look and behave an underage person, too.

6. How sexual abuse has impacted my sexual functioning:

  • My sexual behavior aims at relieving tension, not at achieving pleasure.
  • I don’t find sex pleasurable.
  • I don’t find sexual arousal pleasurable.
  • I don’t find orgasms pleasurable.
  • I do not like to touch myself, sexually or for reasons of hygiene.
  • I experience pain with sex.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, so what have I learned from that, and how do I feel?

First of, I find it quite shocking to see so fucking many items on each list! I mean I knew I was messed up, but seeing the mass of items is really depressing. It’s not like any of the items would be real news to me, but still… seeing them all written down in plain words, so many of them, that’s different than just kind of knowing they are there and then quickly looking elsewhere. 😦

And how I feel . . . well, really embarrassed. Some items make me sound like a really sick person. I am afraid that everyone will think “whoa, she’s fucked up, who would think/feel/behave that way?! She must be one really dirty slut!”

But at the same time there is this stubborn part of me that says “Shut the fuck up! It’s not me who chose this, it’s what happens when people get abused, so I won’t sugarcoat it only to look better, because it’s not me who ought to feel guilty, but any asshole who assaults innocent kids or would consider me an appropriate sexual partner!” I mean really, I try to be respectful of everyone, but when I think back at the people who I’ve had sex with, there’s not a single one I feel even one shred of respect for. Anyone who looks at me and thinks I’d make for an appropriate fuck, despite the fact that I look like a teenager and that my sexual behavior is way inappropriate, especially those who actually carry through with it, THOSE should be the ones feeling guilty and embarrassed!

So I resist the urge to delete this whole post and remind myself that I haven’t chosen any of this. I have not chosen any of those behaviors! They are the impacts of shit other people did with me! I don’t feel good about any of them! In fact, I do what I can to avoid anything sexual altogether, because it’s so threatening and fucked up for me! But the impacts are there and I really, really want to get rid of them.

The next chapter is called “deciding to reclaim our sexuality”, and I look forward to that. I very much wish to reclaim it!

Thank you for reading, and I’m sorry if this was a hard or depressing or fucked up read.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Missed the past episodes of the journey? Here they are:

A project for 2013
The Sexual Healing Journey Begins, Chapter 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 2
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 2
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 3

Book source:
MALTZ, Wendy (2012): The Sexual Healing Journey. A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse; Third Edition; Harper Collins. New York.

38 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Meagan
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 14:01:41

    Unfortunetly I could relate to most of the items on your list. 😦

    • Lola
      Jan 08, 2013 @ 14:07:43

      I’m sorry. 😦 Disheartening, isn’t it. I found it quite sad that I could relate to so many of the items that were suggested (and even had to add a few) as well.

  2. nobodysreadingme
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 14:29:59

    I feel voyeuristic here, and that troubles me, but if I don’t read it I’m simply going to be one of those people who says you’re disgusting and fucked up.
    Disgusting, no. Fucked up? If you mean badly badly affected by your history, then yes.
    Section 5, bullet 1 is the one I really wish you luck with. It might , and I use the word might, not will, be the key to the rest.
    Good luck

    • Lola
      Jan 08, 2013 @ 15:08:18

      Thank you. ❤ And thanks for saying I'm not disgusting. But yeah, fucked up in exactly that sense. I really hope to get to a point where I can have a meaningful relationship with someone, but as of now, it would probably be a royal mess. So I guess it's good that I have no desire to be with anyone whatsoever yet.

      • nobodysreadingme
        Jan 08, 2013 @ 15:17:17

        Meaningful relationships can be a right pig’s ear whatever your history or mental state.
        Believe me I know. You’ve read about the one with S.
        But it wasn’t all bad. It changed me a lot. I wouldn’t be who I am now if I hadn’t had her in my life for a while.

        • Lola
          Jan 08, 2013 @ 16:13:30

          Yeah, the whole relationship thing is probably difficult for everyone. Which is kind of relieving. And I suppose you are right that even the bad experiences have the ability to change you in good ways. So I guess if I eventually manage to have something good come even from the awful stuff, even if it’s only something small, like being aware of just how terrible stuff like abuse is, the that’s a good thing.

  3. Kyle Stanly
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 16:15:03

    You said you kind of show inappropriate responses and assume all touching may be sexual advances, but also say you do not take any joy in the act and feel disgusted and hate the person. Could your attempted sexual advances be a way to test your new family and see if they’re actually who they claim to be?

    And I suppose this may be a bit too personal, but on average, how many times, in say, a year do you go out and seek casual sex with others? I’ve heard of other people with BPD being sexual promiscuous because they see it as their only way to show their affection, but for you it’s not the case. Do you do it with random people, or perhaps new-found friends and associates to test their true intentions?

    You also said it relieves tension? Would this be a coping mechanism like cutting? Harming yourself because you believe you ‘deserve’ it? And you say you manipulate others into having sex with you?

    You also say you have no interest in any intimate relationships, but would you ever be interested in a no-touch all-talk type of relationship, and if so, during the relationship if someone asked you for sex, would you still be unable to say no and end up cheating on him?

    You said you had more sexual partners than was “good” but there is not real number or estimate of what “good” would be… I understand if you won’t, but could you give an estimate?

    Lastly, you said you never touch yourself down there even for hygienic reasons? Couldn’t you get an infection?

    Once again, not trying to be an asshole, just curious, sorry if I ask too many questions.

    • Lola
      Jan 08, 2013 @ 16:42:45

      In the order you asked:

      – Yes, I suppose that attempted sexual advances toward family members might be a way to test them. At least in addition to being confused about what’s appropriate within a family.

      – It’s hard to make an estimate on how often I go and seek casual sex. I have social anxiety and seperation anxiety, and don’t go anywhere by myself, which limits the number of possible occasions. So it always ends up being people who show up at our house, people like family aquaintances, friends of my brother’s, that sort of thing. By now it comes down to only once or twice or so per year (and I hope not at all anymore this year). Before I lived with my family I had more opportunities and it was more like once or twice a month, and usually people like the janitor who worked at the group home, some other chick’s father, stuff like that.

      – yeah, in a way it’s similar to cutting. My sexual behavior definitely falls into the category of self-harming. I manipulate others into having sex with me by acting seductive or flat-out asking them if they want to have sex when I feel like I should be punished and have the opportunity. But like I said, not often anymore.

      – I think as of now I would be unable to have any kind of relationship that required the partners to be equal. I’m only just slowly starting to get better at being a daughter in a parent-child relationship and I feel like this is where my needs are met, so I have no desire for a more mature relationship, even if it were no-touch, all-talk. Just because I don’t think I could cope with an additional relationship and its demands yet. And as of now, yes, I would still be unable to say no and cheat on a partner if I had one if someone else coaxed me to have sex. Which is another reason why it’s good I don’t have a partner (nor meet any people who could coax me into having sex).

      – I think “good” would rather be defined as “healthy” than as a number. I think even a total of 1 sexual partner is more than is good, if the relationship is abusive or involves sex for the wrong reasons. So for that reason I had more sexual partners than was good. How many sexual partners I had over the years I can’t recall. But it was definitely more than was good, because they were all either abusive or for the wrong reasons.

      – well, even when I don’t like it, I do touch myself for hygienic reaons. I just really don’t like that I have to.

      I hope that answers your questions.

      • Kyle Stanly
        Jan 08, 2013 @ 17:26:04

        Thank you for your time and bravery to answer them, I… don’t understand, but I’m sure it’s hard for you to say all of that, and I apologize for putting you through it.

        • Lola
          Jan 08, 2013 @ 18:01:31

          You’re welcome, Kyle. Yes, it is hard for me. But I try hard to only reply to stuff I can handle, so it’s okay, and I apologize in advance if I don’t reply to something, but I need to be careful not to go where it’s going to kick me in the butt afterwards.

  4. nobodysreadingme
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 16:24:02

    Way to go. Way to go.
    It must be hard being brave all the time.
    Well done

  5. Leniking
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 17:08:39

    Hi Lola, your blog is beautiful, despite the sadness. I think also its wonderful that you are sharing this so that other victims of absue know thy are not alone. I have been in relationships in the past with woemn that were victims of abuse and it is very tough for them as it was for me – harrowing actually. I hope you can take heart from my lesbian poetry. It might cheer you up. Love and light and well done, from Leni xox http://leniking1.wordpress.com/

    • Lola
      Jan 08, 2013 @ 17:58:54

      Thank you for the kind words, Leni! 🙂 I can imagine that being in a relationship with women who experienced abuse was very challenging and harrowing. I will go and cautiously check out your lesbian poetry, thank you. xox

      • Leniking
        Jan 08, 2013 @ 20:37:58

        Hi Lola,

        Reading your blog reminded me of those past abusive relationships I was in with women who were victims of child abuse. I have written the poem Blame Game on the back of those memories and would like to thank you for the inspiration. Leni xx

        • Lola
          Jan 09, 2013 @ 08:17:31

          Hi, Leni,
          I’m happy if I inspired a creative process and a poem. I had my mom have a look at the poem (I send her to look first if I’m not sure if I can cope with something) and she said it would probably be a bit triggering for me to read it, but I suppose that means you managed to bring the emotions and turmoil that comes with the topic alive with your poem, which, in itself, is a good thing. Thank you for letting me know. xx

  6. prideinmadness
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 17:42:26

    You’re not messed up! This has greatly impacted your life and that’s something you should blame yourself for. So you’re right, YOU DID NOT CHOSE THIS!

    I;m going to tell you what helped me and what has helped some of my friends when they asked me how I got over my assaults. You may know this or you many not. What you experienced was NOT sex. That was some idiot on a power trip who was not looking out for you. Sex is done with between consenting individuals with the purpose of sharing something pleasurable. Sexual abuse, rape etc have the appearance of sex but they are not!

    Thanks for sharing this chapter 🙂

    • Lola
      Jan 08, 2013 @ 18:08:34

      Thank you. Yes, you are right, I did not choose all this crap, as a whole. I don’t really “choose” to have sex in inappropriate situations either, I just have a hard time fighting it. Hm, and I suppose regarding it as “NOT sex” but abuse or something is a good way to go. I guess if that’s wasn’t sex, I’m probably still a virgin. Gosh, sorry, for some reason that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. That was a royally difficult chapter today.

      • prideinmadness
        Jan 08, 2013 @ 18:12:33

        I had a feeling that would have been a tough one. It’s always really hard to acknowledge the effect the past has had on you. I came to that conclusion that I walk around in a protective bubble to avoid it so now I’m sorting through that (or maybe I wont).

        The notion of virginity is very cultural (read that in The Purity Myth). You have all right to say that you are a virgin. I actually exclude guys that I’ve slept with purely because I hate them so you are in control of all of that!

  7. kat
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 18:40:22

    Thank you for this post. It really hit me as I was reading it how many of the things you mentioned I experience also. I am not BPD, but I am DID, and have been sexually abused. I never saw how much it had impacted me til I read your post. Kudos to you for having the courage to go through this book yourself, and also for posting about it.

    • Lola
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 08:21:27

      Thank you for the kind words, kat. I’m sorry you experience many of the same things. Realizing what a big impact the sexual abuse has actually had is kind of helping me realize that maybe it’s not so much me who is just really fucked up, but really me having been abused that caused those issues. That looks like it should not require much of a realization, but only now that I wrote all that down, I have a hint of a feeling to go with it.

  8. Stefanie Neumann
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 20:39:52

    Hi Lola!

    You listed many things, here, that I can relate to, looking back along my own path. Therefore I am glad that you chose to publish the post instead of deleting it, for two reasons. One reason is that – from my perspective – naming all these things for some reason really helps to get over them. The other reason is that I wish I had read an honest and clear post like this when I have been standing at the point you seem to stand, right now. It would have helped to see that I am not the only one who is struggeling with this kind of stuff after similar experiences. And so I have hope that your openes helps you and others, as well, to re-claim the power off each their own life, again.

    True, it is shocking to see how abusive experiences can screw up a part of your life, how violent they are – and how much impact it actually has. And I personally was also shocked by seeing how twisted everything seemed to be in my life when I have been looking at the impact my own abusive experiences had on me. But facing it also provides clarity – and the insight that it really is the person that performes the abuse who is the screwed up and twisted one – like you rightfully stated, above. It seems, by abusing others they are kind of “sourcing out” all these screwed and twisted feelings, thoughts and beliefs they seem to have about themselves (thank you very much… NOT!) – so that those of us, who are being abused end up with feeling all that stuff.
    The clarity you get when “facing the impact”, eventually, can bring a lot of positive change for yourself. At least it turned out to be a very powerful tool for me to develop more self-love and healthy habits for myself. May you find this in your own way, as well! 🙂

    Much love and thank you for your courage,
    Steffi

    • Lola
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 08:13:05

      Thank you very much, Steffi, for the kind words and the encouragement. 🙂 I am very happy if someone else, who is also struggling, will feel less alone with their feelings after reading this. You are right that this is, indeed, a good reason for sharing. And I very much hope to re-claim over my own life again.

      I think you are right that abusers put all those screwed up feelings that THEY should be having into the people they abuse. I certainly feel the shame and disgust and guilt that probably really belongs with my stepfather. I hope to be able to give those feelings back eventually. I’m glad you were able to develip more self-love and healthy habits. I hope I will manage to do that, too. Thank you.

      • Stefanie Neumann
        Jan 09, 2013 @ 10:44:09

        Lola, I see a lot of strength, courage and clarity in what I have read from you, up to now (although I am new to your blog) and in regard to that have a good feeling that you already have everything within you that you need to get over the abuse and into a self-empowered life. To me it looks like you are on a good way to discover further the path that works for you to do so. And you seem to have caring people around you who support you, too.

        By the way: In fact – even after fairly working through all the steps that helped me to re-claim my life, again, I am feeling less alone reading your post (kind of “retroactively”). So, thank you, once more, for sharing.

        Much love – may you always have the courage to do the next step on your path of healing!

        • Lola
          Jan 09, 2013 @ 12:48:20

          Thank you very much, Steffi! ❤ Yes, I'm very lucky that I now have a caring family who support me, it really makes a big difference. And I'm happy if – even after you managed to re-claim your life – you feel less alone retroactively. I think that's one of the best things that can come from sharing. Much love back to you. 🙂

  9. Clayton
    Jan 09, 2013 @ 03:06:16

    🙂 I’m really happy that you are writing about this stuff. It is a very interesting and difficult thing to do.

    I am interested to see where the journey will take you. 🙂

  10. lostservice22
    Jan 11, 2013 @ 01:00:59

    As I said before, you did not deserve what happened to you. you are an amazing person for dealing with all of this as you are. I am amazed by you even trying. From what I understand your abuse ended not that long ago. I know people who wate 20-30 years or never deal with there stuff. Mine happened when I was 4 and ended by the time I was 5 and I didn’t start to till with it till I was in my 20’s

    You are doing so well and are so amazing. Some day soon I hope you will be able to say the same of your self and fully believe it. lack of self worth is one of the hardest things to over come as a survivor of sexual abuse. I am still working on it. luckily I have a great support group who are always reminding me that I am a good person and worth it.

    • Lola
      Jan 11, 2013 @ 09:43:14

      Thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words! I am lucky that I have a good family who help me deal with all this. I think without them I’d not be anywhere near even wanting do deal with anything, much less feel in a place where I’m able to face stuff. I am very glad that you have a great support group also. That makes such a big difference.

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  13. JC
    May 11, 2013 @ 16:01:55

    Hi,

    I just wanted to say that reading through your sexual healing journey (especially some of the stuff in this post) has been REALLY helpful for me and my own healing. You are braver than I am at the moment, but I aspire to be where you are at someday – being able to work with all of this.

    Thank you so much…

    • Lola
      May 12, 2013 @ 09:50:50

      Thank you very much, JC, for stopping by and letting me know. I’m glad if I wrote something that is helpful for you and your healing. Do take your time. It took me a long time to get to the point where I am able to work with this stuff. You will know when you feel brave enough to do the first steps yourself. Just don’t give up! Take care! 🙂

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