Heal, grow, move on

Joey Garcia

My boyfriend and I are struggling with a no-sex thing and it’s my fault. I can’t have sex because of something bad that happened just before high school graduation last year, a really bad experience with a guy. I was at a party, drank too much, passed out and woke up being taken advantage of by a random guy. I couldn’t fight him off. My boyfriend’s not a douche, he understands about the no-sex thing. But he and I went to a party last night and played sexual Jenga (a.k.a “seven minutes in heaven”) with our friends. I did some stuff with another guy and had no problem. I don’t understand why I can’t do anything sexual with my boyfriend but I could with another guy. I’m sick about this and my boyfriend is annoyed. Please help.

You didn’t have a bad experience with a random guy last year. You were sexually assaulted. Sometimes victims of sex crimes use vague language because an honest description feels too frightening. But being vague perpetuates denial, and being steeped in denial stunts emotional and spiritual growth. Using words that are clear and specific will motivate you to face facts and heal.

Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s cool or grown-up to minimize sexual harassment or sexual assault. It’s actually irresponsible. When you fail to report sexual assault, you teach the perpetrator that he or she can commit a crime and get away with it. You also teach yourself that you cannot be trusted to stand up for yourself. Plus, you become a contributor to the trauma of any future victims of that perpetrator. I doubt you considered any of this, but now you have a responsibility to make different choices in the future, and to help others to do the same.

One reason you are avoiding sexual activity with your boyfriend is that it demands intimacy. Sex between loving partners is emotionally intimate because there’s trust, affection, attraction and honesty. But sex with a stranger isn’t intimate. Being with your man also encourages you to stay in your body during sex. After a sexual assault, some people find sex with a stranger easier because they can leave their bodies, which they imagine as contaminated due to the assault. In other words, the sex act is not complicated but sexual intimacy and our beliefs about sex can be very complicated.

The most likely reason behind your reluctance to have sex with your boyfriend is that you haven’t fully faced the reality of your sexual trauma yet. Make an appointment at the counseling center on your campus, keep that appointment and work your way through this life crisis. When you heal, you will return to a sexual experience that connects you to your boyfriend in a way that is fun, free and loving.

In the meantime assemble a comfort kit: a beautiful bag filled with items that will soothe and reassure you. Include tactile, healthy things like a CD of your favorite inspiring music, a stuffed animal, a photo of a caring person in your life or a favorite place, affirmations, journal, pen, bubble bath and a scented candle. Good therapy can be difficult; it requires courage and perseverance. Just knowing that you have these items assembled and available can ease emotional stress while you heal. It also helps to practice directing your mind to a safe place. The simple process of taking deep breaths and imagining yourself surrounded by beauty and safety can contribute to an inner calm that keeps you going.

One last thing, please see your gynecologist, and get tested for sexually transmitted infections. Taking care of yourself in every way is the most important lesson you can carry away from what has happened to you.

Meditation of the week
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” wrote poet William Wordsworth. What do you need to talk to yourself about?

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