An open letter to the partner of a sexual trauma survivor:
To my partner,
Even though you didn’t cause the damage, you have to deal with the aftermath.
It’s not your fault that sometimes when you touch me, I freeze and want you to get away.
I don’t mean to upset you when I ask you to stop kissing me or touching me; and I promise you it’s not personal.
I am sure it can be confusing and hurtful that I respond in this way so often.
I can understand if it makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong, or that I don’t want to be with you.
This is truly not the case.
But I also need you to understand what’s happening for me in those moments; TO me.
You’re the person I trust; the person I trust more than any other in this world; and yet, when I can feel your arousal or desire, it sometimes sends me into a state of fear.
It sometimes brings on flashbacks of times when I wasn’t treated with respect or dignity by other people.
It sometimes makes my skin crawl to be touched, not because it’s you, but because it reminds me of the times I was touched without my wholehearted consent.
Sometimes I’m afraid to ask you to stop. Even though I know you’ll listen, I’m afraid to push you further away. So sometimes I let you touch me, when I’m actually falling apart and cringing inside. And sometimes this makes me resent myself AND you.
Sometimes I hold back my screams when you get too close to me in your sleep. I hear the voices in my head – echoes of all the times I was too afraid to scream in the past, or all the times I didn’t know I had that choice. Even that urge is automatic; not something I plan.
Sometimes when you try to be thoughtful and give me a massage before bed, it keeps me awake for hours because I go into such a state of anxiety, wondering if I’ll get touched when I’m passed out, just like those other times. So my body doesn’t let me rest.
When you come home from work and hug me too tightly or for too long, I actually feel like I’m being suffocated and can’t breathe. Even just hearing your heavy breathing in my ear sometimes makes me want to push you off and run away.
It’s not that I don’t want to be intimate with you:
On one hand I do, so very much. Sex used to bring me so much pleasure; it used to be so much fun, such an adventure. I know we’ve had some incredible moments together, despite everything.
And on the other hand, sometimes the thought of having you on me or inside of me makes me want to throw up.
I hate that when we are intimate I sometimes struggle to stay present and remember that I am here with you; safe, here with you.
I hate that I sometimes find you disgusting – not because of anything you did – but just because you’re a man, and that’s enough to remind me some days.
I hate that what was done to me has come between us.
So, all I can ask of you is this:
Please be patient.
Please be tender.
Please give me time.
Please tell me you’ll go as slow and wait as long as I need.
Please understand that this says nothing at all about my love and desire for you.
Please know that every time I ask you to stop and then you roll away frustrated, dejected, or apathetic, I feel guilty even though it’s also not my fault.
Please know that it’s normal for you to feel those things.
Please know that it’s normal for me to feel all these things too.
Please don’t let me saying no all the time make you stop wanting me.
Give it time.
Give me time.
Give us time.
I am processing, I am digesting, I am navigating.
I am healing.
But it takes time.
So very much time.
What felt okay yesterday might not feel okay today.
What I needed yesterday I might not need today.
I might be doing A-okay and everything could change in an instant.
Please show me more respect and care than ever.
Show me what it feels like to be safe and loved.
Remind me of the beauty in the world.
Let me be sad or angry if I need to be.
Help me to laugh again.
And slowly, bit by bit, I will be ready to open myself up to you again.
And please know – that just because my body feels closed off to you right now, it doesn’t mean my heart is.
All my love,
Jessica Hill is a Transformational Life Coach, Healer, and Trauma Resolution Guide. She is a trauma survivor, mother, and wife, and is passionate about helping other women understand, integrate, and heal past pain and trauma so they can feel safe to deeply know, embody, and express their whole, authentic selves. Her holistic work encompasses the mind/brain, body/nervous system, and spirit.