Sex after sexual abuse

"Am I Normal?": She was assaulted in a past relationship. Now she wants to know how to find pleasure again

Published March 23, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

    (<a href=''>Sergej Khakimullin</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(Sergej Khakimullin via Shutterstock)

Send your "Am I Normal?" questions to tracy [at]

I’m a straight woman. My sex question pertains to having pleasurable sex after experiencing ongoing sexual abuse within the context of a past relationship. The abuse took place years ago, but now when I have sex (which is rare), my mentality is always "please let this be over," even though it is not at all painful.

You, friend, are normal. I usually build to such a proclamation, but in this case, it seems important to acknowledge right off the bat. Your reaction to what you’ve experienced is not only understandable but very common. It’s typical for survivors of sexual abuse to disassociate during sex -- in simple terms, to separate themselves from the physical act -- or avoid it entirely, and it sounds like both apply in your case. Therapist Wendy Maltz says your email makes it sound like you experience sex as something being done to you, “as opposed to really engaging fully as an equal and mutual partner in the experience.”

But pleasurable sex is...

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By Tracy Clark-Flory

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