Research indicates that women who have experienced sexual violence feel guilty about wanting or engaging in consensual sex. Athena (a sexual violence survivor) said “If I enjoy sex, people are not ready to believe I was ever raped. They think that it must not have been that bad if I can still have sex. Is it wrong to want something that used to hurt me in the past?” The fact that Athena is a survivor of sexual violence in no way means that she is not entitled to have a good sex life, she deserves a healthy sex life as anyone else. Rape/ abuse and Sex it is important to learn to separate rape/abuse and sex. Healthy sex is nothing like the violation you experienced, and in working on your sexual healing and rediscovering your likes and dislikes; you can learn to differentiate the two. The actual acts may be the same, but that is where the similarities end. This task can become complicated, as many non-survivors connect rape and sex, so their perceptions become skewed. Survivors may worry that others are judging them for wanting to become sexually active, or that the assault must not have been “that bad” if they are able to enjoy sex again. Some people may even openly question a survivor’s desire to engage in sex after rape or abuse. As difficult and wounding as these types of comments can be, it is important not to let them interfere with your own views and desires. You are entitled to healthy sex, and no one can tell you how to feel. Problems at Initiating sex What if the survivor has to initiate sex as the partner maybe caring enough to worry about triggering you and therefore wait for you to initiate sex when you are ready? This could make the survivor quite uncomfortable as she may constantly feel discomfited for asking for sex. If this is the case, it’s best to talk it out with your partner. Sharing something willingly with a partner is perfectly natural for you to want something you enjoy. Survivors talk about being called a ‘whore / Slut’, or being told that they “liked it” by their perpetrator during the assault. You may feel as though your choosing to have sex, even consensually, makes those comments true. The reality is that the survivors are the ones who can label their own experiences. If they struggle knowing how to deal with such feelings, they should consider talking to a therapist to learn how to separate these negative comments from reality. Connecting to unhealthy sex They feel guilty because they are always unsure about the true motive for wanting sex, they struggle in knowing whether or not they are engaging in healthy sex. For survivors, it’s common to use sex as a way to re-live their assault, to punish themselves or to distract themselves. These reactions are quite normal; if they are unsure of whether they are using unhealthy ways to cope- consider asking these questions: How do I feel before and then after having sex? Why did I choose to have sex? Did I enjoy while I was having sex? Would I like to change anything about my sexual encounter? Finally, take out some time to look at the reasons for wanting sex, what do you enjoy about it and what you hope to get out of it. Evaluate how you feel before and after having sex, and how that makes you feel about yourself. Sex is meant to be fun and enjoyable experience for both the people involved and should be considered as a positive way to move forward in your mental healing.