woman holding teal ribbon, navigating aftereffects of sexual assault

Navigating the aftereffects of sexual assault can be a real challenge. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Moms, if you have had this experience, you may want to share this post with your partner.

Sexual assault is one of the most personal offenses to a person’s being, and has made a mark on every generation. It wasn’t until the 1940s and 50s during the civil rights era that activists began to talk about it. The 1970s brought greater awareness and support for survivors, with the first rape crisis center opening in 1971. (For more on the history of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, click here.) Despite the valiant efforts of many, we have not seen a decline in sexual assault in the last 20+ years. The teal ribbon (est. 2000) stands for awareness and prevention, and the color is associated with trust, devotion, and healing.

While statistics show that females are sexually assaulted at a much higher rate than males, keep in mind that males are less likely to report but suffer just as significantly as females. If not addressed, these emotional and sometimes physical injuries can show up in the lives of committed, loving couples. The aftereffects of sexual assault can last for years or even a lifetime without support and healing. So as not to trigger readers, you can follow this link to see the list of possible consequences of this kind of abuse.

What if you or your partner is a survivor of a sexual assault?

It is highly likely that someone who was sexually assaulted will have challenges with intimacy. Signs and symptoms may not be apparent at first, but may surface over time, or suddenly and unexpectedly. Even if the person had counseling, there can still be triggers and further need for support. If the experience(s) have been pushed down or repressed, emotions could come as a surprise to both of you.

If you are the survivor, be gentle with yourself. Share what you feel you can with your partner and seek support. It is important that you work together because intimacy and sex are a couples issue. So much healing and restoration can come from a healthy intimate relationship.

Be Gentle

If you are the partner, be gentle with yourself and your partner. Seek support. Even the most loving and caring husband can feel intimidated by this topic.

Be An Excellent Listener

Thank her (or him) for being open with you, even if they have just told you a small part of their experience or feelings. Your support will help them open up more.

Stay Calm

It’s natural to feel angry about what your partner has experienced, but anger is unlikely to help her open up to you and more likely to cause her to guard what she tells you.

Be Present and Available

Let her know you are there for her, whenever she wants to talk.

Stay Closely Connected During Intimacy

Even the kindest of lovers can get caught up in their own experience and lose track of their partner’s experience during lovemaking.


Keep in mind that love, support, and open communication will build a bridge to a healthy sex life over time (with help, when needed). For a sexual assault survivor, it is important to remember that sex was used as a weapon, but sex is not the enemy; the person who used it against you is the enemy. It can be really hard to separate the sex you have with someone you love from the sex that was used against you, because it all happened in your body.

What if you are currently in a relationship where you feel sex is being weaponized against you?

Please seek support. No one deserves to be misused or abused. Speak to your primary care doctor, OB-GYN, or call the hotlines below to find a qualified professional who can help you find safety and/or services to begin to work through the issues you are having:
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Independence House
To connect with Tracy, click here.

Even though navigating the aftereffects of sexual assault is difficult, recovery and healing are possible. Please share this article or these ideas with anyone you know who would benefit from them.


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