Sex after assault 

Arts and Culture
February 10, 2022
Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Things to remember on the journey of (re)discovering sex 

By: Matthew Aksamit, contributor 

CW: sexual assault, rape culture 

This is written from the personal perspective of the writer. Everyone’s experience looks and feels different and can by no means be blanketed by a single perspective. This article has been edited by The Silhouette and Student Health Education Centre for clarity. 

Right off the bat, I feel the need to clarify what I mean by sexual assault. After all, we are in a capitalist institution in which the normalization of rape culture is not only perpetuated, but also thrives — the university. I have heard countless “justifications” of assault: they were drinking or otherwise intoxicated; they were wearing provocative clothing; they were alone in a bad neighbourhood; or it does not count because it was their partner. The list goes on. There are also complexities when it comes to legal definitions of assault.  

So, when I say this article is primarily for survivors of sexual assault, who am I talking about? Ultimately, I am talking about anyone who believes I am talking about them. If you are vocal about your experience or hesitant to share it, if you have pursued legal measures or if you have not, if you feel that twinge in your stomach every time you hear the word assault, or if you do not even know what to call your experience, if you are someone who has had a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature, this is for you. These are the things I wish I knew and while I know it will not fix everything, I hope it helps.  

Sexual desire after assault manifests differently for every survivor! 

While some individuals may experience a reduced sexual drive (hyposexuality) as a result of sexual assault, some may experience the opposite (hypersexuality). It is important to note that both, in addition to falling anywhere on the spectrum of sexual desire, are equally valid reactions to trauma. The way you feel after assault should never be used to diminish or invalidate your experience. My personal experience manifested in hypersexuality and represented an effort to reclaim control over a narrative in which I previously didn’t have it. 

Boundaries are your new best friend!  

No, really! They are there to help make sure you are doing what makes you feel safe, comfortable and sexy. Boundaries are interlocked with consent and both are necessary to ensure a) this is sex, which requires consent to differentiate it from trauma and/or assault and b) you get to do the things that actively excite and please you!  

Boundaries also extend far beyond the realm of sex and practicing establishing boundaries in other areas of your life, such as saying “no” to an event you really do not want to attend, can help make it feel more natural.  

Give yourself time and space to mourn and heal! 

One of the things I struggled with most after being assaulted was what to do after. I am very much the kind of person to try and shrug things off, get back to work and bury myself in things. Unfortunately, this meant I never really processed the trauma until it started affecting me months later. I had nightmares, panic attacks and, above all, I was confused as to what I should do.  

This is where giving myself a space to mourn and heal came in. Creating a safe(r) space for myself meant surrounding myself with close friends who gave me their support and presence when it came to seeking medical care and contacting a mental health professional and a doctor. I was lucky enough to be able to see a therapist for free for a few months. Through these sessions I was able to talk through my experiences while being heard, supported and validated, all of which were necessary in my journey. 

I also realize, however, that therapy is not available for everyone due to financial and other barriers, so I would also like to mention some free local and campus-based resources: the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area) offers a 24/7 survivor support line, the Student Health Education Centre offers anonymous, confidential pregnancy testing, peer support and referrals to local services, the Women and Gender Equity Network offers support to all victims of sexual and gender-based violence and the Pride Community Centre offers support to 2SLGBTQIA+ and questioning individuals. The Student Wellness Centre also offers valuable resources to students.  

You deserve peace and goodness! 

When I was assaulted, in some twisted way, I thought I somehow deserved it. I thought it was my fault and I was ultimately responsible for my own unhappiness. I struggled and, to this day, struggle with the notion that I am a bad person. While this has not completely faded from my life, one of the things that has helped has been trying to take note of the inherent dignity I have and deserve because I am a human being. I am not perfect but in no way does this make me at fault for the situations in which I was taken advantage of.  

So, what does sex after assault look like? Well, it looks different for everybody. What is important to remember is healing happens at a different pace for everyone and your path is not abnormal because it does not line up with someone else’s. And remember, as long as there is consent, there is no such thing as doing sex wrong! Explore, have fun and know you deserve all the light the sun has to offer.    

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