Dating with sex

When you decide based on your values, and when you've considered what you do and don't want, you're more likely to feel good about your decision. Abuse taught me that a relationship meant losing all of my agency and performing sexual acts I didn’t want to — “no” wasn’t an option.

“For someone who is going through the experience of coming out about [their] sexual assault, that’s…something that they are going to want to do on their own time and in their own way,” says Stocker.

Because trauma is so common, it’s important to be educated about how it affects people. Intimate relationships can produce intense trauma reactions because these situations often cause the strongest reminders of a harmful past, and the body and brain react based on these past memories.

This can manifest in a number of ways, from fear of physical intimacy and trust issues, to flashbacks and body memories, to a highly tuned fight-or-flight response.

And if a partner needs to put a stop to something, understand it isn’t personal. “If a survivor says, ‘I don’t want to have oral sex.

That isn’t something I’m comfortable with.’ Whether it’s giving or receiving, understand that that isn’t about you,” says Stocker.

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