After leaving an abusive relationship, there is much healing that needs to take place before a survivor can recover completely and move forward into a full and healthy life. An area of recovery that can easily be overlooked is a survivor’s sexuality. Often survivors are dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD and other, more immediate, crises that can make reclaiming their sexuality something that gets placed on the back burner, if it is ever dealt with at all. If sexual abuse was part of the equation, then this topic becomes even more challenging to approach.
You might wonder why, if there are so many other hurdles to move past, would one choose to focus on their sexuality at all? Here’s the thing about sexuality, it is about so much more than just having sex, reaching orgasm or pleasing a partner. When you reclaim your sexuality there is a piece of your self-worth that is able to be reclaimed as well. You gain back a sense of power and control over your own body that many who have suffered through abuse have lost. It can be empowering to remember that your body is yours, that it can bring pleasure and be enjoyed. Self-care, a piece of recovery that is crucial, can and should include reconnecting with your body and your sexuality in a healthy, empowering way.
What does reclaiming your sexuality in a healthy, empowering way look like? Well, for starters, I’m not advocating running out and having sex with any and every person you come in contact with. What I am suggesting is spending some time reacquainting yourself with what turns you on, what makes you feel sexy, empowered and sensual. This may mean reading racy romance novels, or attending a friend’s adult toy party for something new, or romancing yourself one night with candles and a long bubble bath. I have spoken to women who have had success with each of these approaches. Whatever it may be for you take time to learn how to love your body as it is, remind yourself, or discover what you like, need and want sexually, so that when you are ready to move forward into a new phase of your life, you are better prepared to know and ask for what you need from a partner. This is imperative to having a healthy sexual relationship in the future. Even if you don’t have any intention of ever finding a new partner or can’t begin to contemplate ever being ready for that, knowing your body, getting comfortable in your own skin and owning that piece of yourself can do wonders for your self-confidence and your sense of self.
Sexuality is not dirty, it is not wrong, it is natural, it is healthy and it is a crucial part of who we all are. You get to take it back and in the process take a piece of yourself back. As victims, so much of who we thought we were feels lost after we leave, so part of becoming a survivor is reclaiming as many of those pieces as we can.