Sexual Abuse

Ask Dinah your question

It is very hard for me to be sexually aroused if i am reminded of being abused as a child, can you please suggest what steps I can take to remedy it?

Dinah answers: When you first become sexually active after childhood sexual abuse, it is normal for many women to be flooded with hurtful memories. If you experience them, stop the activity and return to the present, where you are safe and with a partner out of choice. Just take it as slow as you need to, even if you are in the middle of intercourse, any time is alright to stop rather than retraumatise yourself. As you gather more and more sexual experience (not just intercourse, but touching, masturbating, massaging etc) that is pleasurable and non-threatening, the bad memories will become fewer and the good ones will take over. It is a process, so give yourself time and choose partners with care.

I am 25 and still a virgin. As a child, I was sexually abused, and I have a hard time being intimate with guys. I love kissing, but I don't like being mauled on my first or my second date. However, it is very hard to tell my dates that I don't like being touched with just a sexual intention, there has to be some feelings involved. If I am being touched with just a sexual intention, I feel very distressed as it reminds me of being sexually abused. How do I explain it to my date as I have hard time telling them all this; I am not sure if they will understand it!

Dinah answers: It’s a really tough picture of the society we live in, where taking sex at a pace that suits both partners seems so hard to come by. What you are asking for is completely logical, not just for someone who has experienced sexual abuse, but even more so for you. I don’t think that you need to explain why you want to take it at your own pace, its your right and you should be looking to be with the kind of guy that wants you to want him. If you feel comfortable telling a guy up front about your abuse, you don’t have to think it is something to be ashamed of, but it is always easier to understand and discuss such experiences when you know each other better and have developed some trust. I think you should rephrase your intentions. It is not your duty to have him understand that you want more time. It is his duty to understand, and if he shows no interest in trying to get what you want, you should just walk away. This is even simpler for you because you aren’t feeling turned on, so you don’t have your body begging you to just let him go on. You should know that plenty guys will have no problem listening to you if you express to them that you are interested in them despite wanting to hold off with the sex. Some may even feel relieved because they may be acting out of a mistaken sense of pressure that they are expected to pull these moves – to show you that they are keen and that they are “real” guys.

when i was 9 years old, a boy 10 yrs old took me to his home. he took off his and my clothes and then started rubbing his penis on my vagina. Although since he was a kid he DID NOT have an erection. I am afraid, can i be HIV infected, if he would have been HIV positive??

Dinah answers: It is most likely that the kind of abuse that you are describing has more of an emotional impact than a physical one. As I understand, there was no penetration or use of force, and if neither of you had begun puberty, there was probably no exchange of fluids. Under these conditions, you are unlikely to have contracted anything. Having said that, children who abuse other children are almost always themselves victims of abuse. This leaves them at risk of STDs as well as being maladjusted and behaving completely inappropriately. For this reason I would say that you should get yourself tested, not only for HIV but for other STDs that the clinic in your area recommends. I don’t believe that the chances of infection are great, but rather be sure that you are safe, instead of having this question hang over you any longer. If you still are bothered in any way by this incident, I recommend that you speak to the local rape crisis centre, where you can find anonymous and free support. Talking about and sharing your experience with another woman who understands, is a good way to help get over the trauma that might be left behind.

Last week my boyfriend and i had really rough sex. I noticed i was really sore afterwards, like a bruised feeling. I still not only have that bruised feeling but my left 'lip' is really swollen down by my entrance of my vagina. when i push on it it is kind of hard and it hurts a lot. I have no idea what it could be. i tried looking it up on the internet but it was no help.

Dinah answers: If the use of force in completely consensual, you have every right to go ahead with it, but remember that your vulva and vagina are far more sensitive than his penis. The skin will more easily be torn and injured, which is what seems to have happened to you. You need to give yourself time off from sex to heal and consider whether you want to take the brunt of this kind of sex play. I would suggest you reconsider such a level of roughness because it brings up an association between sex and violence, which can be very unhealthy. If the pain and swelling doesn’t pass in a few days, see a doctor to make sure there is no infection or even fractures of the small pelvic bones. Don’t be embarrassed to mention that it was from consensual rough sex, but take your boyfriend along. In fact, let him have a look at you anyway, so that he realized what the outcome of your roughness is.

A guy at my work keeps cornering me and telling me stories about different sexual exploits with his wife and sometimes about things he’s done with other women. I get very flustered when we talks about sex with me, because we’re at work after all and I’m pretty new there. I don’t know how to avoid him, and I’m not sure if I can complain because he hasn’t done anything, after all.

Dinah answers: It isn’t quite true that he hasn’t done anything. Even if he hasn’t laid a finger on you, what he is doing is clearly sexual harassment. It can make your work life miserable and leave you feeling very vulnerable. Like every other element of sex, even communication should be consensual. Even if you agreed to it initially, and allowed it to progress, you have every right to tell him that he has passed the line and that you are no longer interested in hearing anything related to sex. You should communicate to him that you consider what he does to be sexual harassment and that you demand that he stops. That includes jokes – they can be very offensive and threatening and you have the right to a safe working environment. If you are uncomfortable speaking to him directly, write an email, and cc the human resources person. Also speak to whomever covers human resources in your company and learn more about your sexual harassment policy. For more support, contact your local rape crisis centre.