Embrace the Truth that You are Intended for Greatness: A Message from Shelaine Maxfield

Guest blog by Shelaine Maxfield, Board Chair and President of The Younique Foundation

Each of us is on a journey of self-discovery, and each of us has an incredible purpose to fulfill. That specific purpose looks different for everyone, and that’s okay. I was unaware of my potential as a child and young adult. It wasn’t until I was in my mid- to late twenties that I realized that I had wasted my life living below that potential.

For a long time, I didn’t know that I had a purpose or potential to live up to. I grew up in a small town, I didn’t develop or discover any talents in my childhood, and I don’t have a college degree. These things are true about me, but they are what I call my “wrong truths.” I realized that I was living my life based on the understanding and the belief that I was a nobody from nowhere.

I had to take a good look at my life and do a lot of soul-searching to figure out what was right with me, what I had to offer, and what I could contribute to society. After some time, I came to the conclusion that I have a big heart. I have a willingness to help and a desire to be a blessing in the lives of those around me.

These things might not look very impressive on a résumé, but they are exactly what I need to live my life with purpose. Looking back, I can see that I had opportunities to do more good than I did. I was stuck in the mentality that somehow my ability to achieve success was inhibited by and dependent upon how others might react to me. I allowed my insecurities to get in the way of doing good. I was so busy seeing the barricades that I failed to notice the pathways. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to accept that yes, what people say about me still has the potential to hurt my feelings, but negative perceptions or comments cannot affect my ability to rise above them unless I allow them to.

I asked myself a simple question, and my perspective on my life changed. For me, it didn’t happen in one big “ah-ha” moment. It didn’t happen overnight. And while I can tie this perspective shift back to a certain time of my life, it’s been a series of seemingly insignificant events. The shift has happened for me gradually, and, honestly, it’s still happening. But I think when it comes right down to it, I simply caught hold of the thought, “What if?”

What if I was intended for more than just getting through each day? What if I’m supposed to be doing something important with my life? What if I’m not living up to God’s plan for me? And then I let those thoughts sink in deeply. Those thoughts sunk so deeply that they landed on a reservoir of potential that I didn’t even know was there. I let those thoughts evolve, and I allowed them to start influencing the choices I made, sometimes big choices, but mostly the little everyday choices. Gradually, I also learned to recognize those regularly occurring negative thoughts for what they were: progress preventers.

I was allowing those negative thoughts and those wrong truths to dictate who I was and who I would become. Then I thought: what would happen if I embraced the things that were right with me? What if I let those things determine the path of my life instead? If thoughts had the power to lead me on a path that I didn’t want to stay on, then what would happen if I let them lead me to where I’d rather be? We have to choose where our energy and our time are best spent. We have to maximize the effort we give and only give it to the things that matter the most to us. We may need to give up some things, but most things just need to be reassessed, restructured, organized and then given 100% of our focus during the time that we have set aside for them.

My life is what it is today because I asked myself over a decade and a half ago, “What if?” What if I could become all the things that I admire in other people? What if I let go of the negativity and immersed myself in positive things instead? Then, instead of telling myself I couldn’t change and grow, I grabbed hold of my aspirations and they have become a metamorphosis for me. I want all of you to experience this kind of transformation in your own lives. I hope that something that I have shared opens your eyes and your hearts to the truth that there is incredible power within each of you. We don’t need to look to the world to find out who we are intended to be. That amazing version of ourselves that we hope to become someday has been right here inside of us all along, just waiting to be discovered.

Embrace the truth that there is incredible power within you. Embrace the truth that you are intended for greatness – I know that you are. Kick your journey of self-discovery into high gear and discover who you are intended to be by taking something away, just one thing: negativity. Start by recognizing it in its many forms and then respond by saying, “There is no room for negativity here.” When we remove the negativity from our lives, we make room for the goodness that life has to offer. We open our hearts to discovering our purpose, and we uncover the incredible goodness that is within us. We allow ourselves to truly become what we are intended to be.

Do-It-Yourself: How to Choose Your Own Family

Quote for creating your own family for The Younique Foundation.

The most supportive people in your life don’t always have to be the people you’re related to. Sometimes good friends can offer the love and encouragement of a family. Creating your own family can be difficult, but it’s not impossible and it’s definitely well worth it. All you need to begin is a desire to find people who are a good fit for you. The goal is to surround yourself with loving and supportive people who understand, empower, and push you to be the best version of yourself. If that sounds like a project you’re ready to undertake, then read on.

Please note: There is no wrong way to implement this into your own life, just be sure to go in with lots of love and a little patience.

Step 1: Realize what you need.

One woman lived far away from her family. She and her husband were both going to school, and she was pregnant with their first child. As time went on, she realized that she missed her mother and grandmother. So she made friends with a few older women in her neighborhood. They filled that hole for her. Of course, there are times when you don’t know what you need until you find it, so keep an open mind about the people in your life who can become your family.

Step 2: Find your people.

After her divorce, one woman felt completely alone. No one in her family understood. Almost all of her friends were still married and just pitied her. She felt like she had no one to talk to about what she was experiencing. Then her friend invited her to a Facebook group for single moms. Suddenly she had dozens of women who knew exactly how she felt. A few of the women became her family. In fact, during the holidays when their kids are with their other parent, her group of single moms gets together to have their celebration. No matter what you’re going through, good or bad, there are people out there who are understanding and supportive. You just need to find them.

Step 3: Embrace your new family.

One woman’s family shamed her anytime she would post pictures on Instagram with her friends and label it #family. While she still has a limited relationship with her blood family, this woman has made a purposeful choice to spend more time and energy with her chosen family who is more supportive and less shaming. There may be people who don’t understand why you need to expand your family. It may cause questions or hurt feelings. Keep in mind that you need to surround yourself with the best people to have the best life. And creating a new family, or expanding your current one, can do that for you.

We realize, of course, that a strained relationship with your blood family can be heartbreaking. And it’s not always easy to find a new family or support system. The above directions aren’t meant to be flippant, but to show you that you deserve people in your life who are loving and supportive of you and your healing journey. So be sure to keep an open mind and open heart when it comes to who you want, and who you exclude, in your family.

 
 

How Time Magazine’s Person of the Year is Shifting the Story

Every year Time magazine chooses a Person of the Year. Someone who was significant in the events of that year, whether positive or negative. This year instead of just one person, they chose to highlight the women and men who spoke up about their sexual abuse, sexual harassment, or sexual assault, including the woman who created the #MeToo campaign.

The Time magazine cover choice marks an amazing shift away from focusing on the perpetrator to focusing on the survivor. These women and men have been shown to be strong, capable, and courageous. It’s creating a space for all survivors to tell their stories.

At The Younique Foundation, we know the power that a survivor’s story can have. In fact, we have an entire page dedicated to it called Faces of Survivors. These women have bravely shared their stories of abuse and healing. In breaking their silence, they are breaking the stigma surrounded talking about childhood sexual abuse.

If you are a survivor who is ready to share your story, we would love to hear it. If you’re a supporter who wants to help or a survivor who isn’t ready to break their silence, we have other ways that you can help, including supporting the work that we do to help educate and empower.

Time magazine’s decision to highlight the strength of the survivors will hopefully set a precedent that will continue as more women and men opened up about their experiences.  We are grateful it has shone a light on sexual abuse, taking it from something secret to something we can and should speak openly about. Let’s keep this conversation going and continue to break down the stigma around talking about it. You can heal, and we want to help you do it. You are not alone, you don’t need to feel ashamed, you are a survivor, and your story matters.

Peace in the Present: The Gift of EMDR Therapy

Guest blog by Starr Hall

After the traumatic abuse I experienced stopped, I wished I could stop it from invading my present life. I was on high alert. I felt unable to stop my body from warning me of danger that I was no longer experiencing. There was a part of me that knew I had done everything in my power to progress, and another part of me that was still so afraid. What was going on? I had rebuilt my life. So why was I still fearful of my abuser? I longed to feel safe again, but I didn’t know how to make that happen. Then I heard about EMDR therapy. 

When I first heard about EMDR, I wasn’t sure if it was for me. I was willing to put in the work to heal. But it sounded, well, a bit strange. I thought, “So you’re telling me that all a therapist has to do is wave their hand in the air, and that is supposed to help? You’re kidding, right?” Luckily for me, I had a trusted girlfriend that I could go to with my questions. I asked her, “Tell me about EMDR. What’s it like? Is it weird? Does it really help?” She answered all of my questions because she had been there, and now I hope I can answer some of yours.  

What is EMDR?  

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It has become a best practice in the clinical community to treat trauma. During an EMDR session, bilateral stimulation is used, usually involving the client’s eyes. The therapist holds their hand up and moves it back and forth horizontally while the client follows with their eyes. Researchers believe these eye movements imitate the body’s rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In order to practice EMDR, the therapist must be trained to follow a step-by-step process that includes bilateral stimulation and a script. 

What’s it like? 

Here’s what happens at a typical EMDR session: First, a calming, safe place is established by practicing techniques like deep breathing, guided relaxation, etc. My calming place is the ocean. I imagine myself sitting on the beach with a vast view of the ocean, my toes in the sand, the sun on my face, breathing in the fresh salty air, listening to the waves as they crash. The therapist guides the client through this. Soon the client can practice these self-care techniques on their own. After establishing a safe place, the client answers the questions the therapist asks, then engages the body in a bilateral stimulation, then answers questions again, then bilateral stimulation, and so on. EMDR allows the client to reprocess traumatic memories. The script guides the session, and the client guides the reprocessing. 

Is it weird? 

EMDR may sound a bit weird, but it was not as intimidating as I expected. It’s not that different from talk therapy. It felt liberating to work through past traumatic experiences with both my mind and body. 

Does it really help? 

Yes! A resounding yes. EMDR allowed me to process past traumatic experiences in a new light. I felt completely different than I had before. Before I felt fearful. After I felt free. F R E E. A transformation took place within me. I had my life back. I was astounded at the healing that took place in less time than I could have anticipated. EMDR gave me the gift of separating my past from my present. This not only restored my sense of safety, it also gave me peace. If I could share this gift with every trauma survivor, I would.  

You can find true healing and overcome trauma in many ways. EMDR was part of my path to healing. Trust your intuition and find what is right for you. Healing IS possible. Not only have I walked this path, I have seen others walk it, too. Strong, courageous, incredible survivors have shown their ability to find hope and healing time and time again. No matter how insurmountable it may seem, you have the power to overcome trauma and find peace in the present. I invite you to discover your own path to healing. I am cheering you on every step of the way.

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I Will Listen, Acknowledge, and Support

With #MeToo trending on social media as women and men talk about their experiences being sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or sexually abused, many people are asking what they can do. A lot of support systems of survivors, especially, want to know how they can not only let the people in their life know that #IBelieveYou, but also help them find hope and healing.

When a survivor first breaks the silence about abuse, loved ones sometimes struggle to know how to respond. Initial reactions often include anger and confusion. The first step to understanding what has happened to your loved one is education. As you learn more about sexual abuse and its impact on survivors, you will be able to process your responses and find ways to support your loved one. Below is the learning process that you might go through as a supporter. This is a story that has been compiled from the experiences of many supporters.

When I first found out that my wife had been sexually abused, I had so many questions, so I tried to learn. I needed to understand what my wife had gone through and how it impacted her. The first thing I learned is that sexual abuse is more common than I thought. It’s not something I had heard about before my wife talked to me, so I just assumed it didn’t happen very often. The reality is that it happens frequently. I also assumed that most perpetrators are strangers. I thought it was crazy that my wife had been abused by her uncle, but then I found out that most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone close, often a family member. I realized that a situation that I thought was unusual is, sadly, typical.

I also learned that most abuse survivors never tell anyone about what happened. And if they do tell, the abuse probably won’t be reported. When my wife first told me about her abuse, she told me that it had gone on for two years. I wondered why someone didn’t make it stop? I knew she told her parents, but they told her that saying anything about it publicly would “look bad.” They said her family’s reputation was too important. Again, this seemed crazy to me, but I found out that her situation was pretty standard. Child sexual abuse often goes on for a while, and it’s rarely reported.

The most important thing I learned was that my wife was still suffering from the trauma of what happened. Abuse isn’t something that people just forget about. Their bodies and minds hang on to the trauma and continue to respond years later. I found out about my wife’s abuse when a man who reminded her of her uncle sat in front of us in a movie theater. This man triggered my wife—he brought back memories of the past abuse, and my wife’s body reacted as if she were in danger—as if the abuse were still happening.

Initially, I was angry and confused, but now I am more educated. I understand that what happened to my wife isn’t all that uncommon, and I learned that she’s going to need help recovering. She can’t just get over it. It’s going to take time, but it’s possible. And I know that I’m a big part of her healing. Survivors need people who love them and support them, and I can be one of those people for her. I understand that my wife and I can have a relationship that will be fulfilling for both of us—a relationship with emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy. It will take some work, but it’s worth it.

Healing from the impact of sexual abuse is a journey for both supporters and survivors. For more information about how you can support the survivors in your life, look at the Supporting Hope e-book on our resources page. Also, read more about the journey of supporters at: I Was Confused, Angry, and Hurt and I Am Educated and I Understand

Your Sexual Health Bill of Rights

The World Health Organization defines sexual health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. . .. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.” Healthy sexuality involves more than just physical safety. Emotional safety and positive attitudes about sex are also key components.

Sexual abuse survivors usually had their first sexual experience by force, before they could consent or fully understand what was going on. Their sexual rights were violated. These confusing and traumatizing experiences from your past can have a negative impact on your sexual experiences in the present. Knowing your sexual rights will help you have safe, healthy, and fulfilling relationships.

Remember that no one ever has the right to force or coerce you into doing something that you don’t want to. You are in control of your body and your experiences.

Sexual Bill of Rights from The Younique Foundation

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I Will Hope, Laugh, and Share

Every survivor of childhood sexual abuse has a different story. Every person deals with it differently, and everyone finds healing in their way. This blog is about a survivor, but not just one survivor. This is a combination of stories from several of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. These feelings and experiences are common among survivors. If you’ve faced any of the feelings described in this blog, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

It’s been a long journey of healing. I went from not being able to be in a committed relationship, to finding someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. I went from sabotaging all my best efforts at work, to starting my own company. I went from being ashamed of being a survivor, to sharing my healing journey with others.

I’ll continue to do that, too. I am looking to the future in a way that I never have before. I can see it so clearly – and it’s amazing! I am making plans and goals. I am sharing my hope. I’m happy! I laugh now, as often as I can, and I never used to laugh.

When I look back to the abused little girl I was and the broken woman I became, my heart floods with compassion. I didn’t deserve what happened to me. No one deserves that. But it happened. And I had two choices: I could either deal with it or I could ignore it.

I ignored it for years and years and years. I ignored it and nothing changed.

So, I faced it. It was tough, but so am I. There were days when I didn’t think I could spend one more second inside my own head, but I kept going. I found love and support, important things for any journey.

For too long I thought I was alone. I don’t want anyone else to feel like that. So, I share my story. I share my hope. And, yes, I share my laughter. Because as the incomparable Maya Angelou has said (who was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself): “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

As I get better, I do better. As I heal myself, I look for ways to heal others. As I find joy and laughter, I share it with the world. I was broken, but I am healing, and I will never stop sharing my hope.

Healing from the impact of sexual abuse is a journey. For more information about how you can find healing, please refer to Reclaim Hope, a free e-book available on our resources page. Also, you can read more about the journey of survivors at: I Was Abused, Broken, and Lost and I Am Talking, Writing, and Healing.

5 Ways to Turn Learned Helplessness into Learned Optimism

Turn helplessness into optimism

Learned helplessness, simply speaking, is a psychological condition where someone believes that they are powerless and that nothing they do will change that. It often begins in childhood as a response to trauma. It’s common among survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and it can lead many to become stunted in their healing progress.

Steven Maier and Martin Seligman conducted a study in the 1960s that showed learned helplessness in dogs. They placed dogs in locked cages and repeatedly shocked them. After administering many different courses of electric shock, the researchers would open the door of the cages and shock the dogs again. They expected the dogs to run out, but they didn’t. The dogs stayed and endured the shocks.

Another group of dogs was placed in cages with the doors open. When the dogs were shocked, they immediately ran away. The researchers concluded that the first group of dogs learned helplessness because nothing they did made a difference.

If the study had ended there, it would be pretty discouraging, but it didn’t. Maier and Seligman went back and helped the first dogs unlearn what they had been conditioned to do. They taught them to reclaim their power. They taught them to get out of the cage.

So what can you do to get out of the cage of learned helplessness? One way is to replace it with learned optimism. Mindfulness, one of our 5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope, can help with that. Here are a few things to try:

1. Meditate

This can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be scary. There are a lot of different types of meditation, and there will be at least one that resonates with you. Ask around, look online, or try a website like Headspace.com to see what type of meditation you should try.

2. Check Your Thoughts

Notice when you’re having negative or self-defeating thoughts. Make a conscious choice to recognize them for what they are – unproductive thoughts – and choose to focus on more positive, productive thoughts. This may be difficult at first, but, like anything, will improve with practice.

3. Practice Gratitude

When you feel like you’re trapped in a cage of helplessness, look at the things around you that you’re grateful for. Be as specific as you can. Instead of saying, “I’m grateful for my bed,” say, “I’m grateful that I have a warm place to sleep, a comfortable place to read, and a soft place to relax every night. I’m grateful that I have clean sheets and pillows that feel just right…” Feel the difference that it can make.

4. Write

If you’re struggling to see the good in a situation, or struggling to check your thoughts, write them down. Address what you’re thinking in writing and you’ll find clarity and calm that you didn’t know were there. Set a timer for 15 minutes and just write everything that comes into your mind. This act of freewriting will “dump” the negative thoughts and help you focus on the ones that will lead you to feeling more optimistic and less helpless.

5. Take One Step

Does everything on this list seem overwhelming or unrealistic? Then break it down even further. Getting out of the cage of learned helplessness will not happen in one quick movement. It takes small steps. So, think of one small thing that you can do right now that will help you step away from helplessness and toward optimism. All you need to do today is take that one small step.

Learned helplessness is a defense mechanism that you developed as a child to lessen the trauma you were experiencing. Now, as an adult, there are better ways for you to handle the stress, the triggers, and the aftermath of your trauma. Reclaim your power. Make the choice today to move away from learned helplessness and embrace learned optimism.

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5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope After Childhood Sexual Abuse

Learn the tools, 5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope, that you need to overcome childhood sexual abuse

One thing that makes The Younique Foundation’s approach to healing from childhood sexual abuse distinctive is our use of the 5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope. We created these tools specifically for survivors to help them on their healing journey. Below is an in-depth look at each strategy and an example of how it can be used.

You should know that the strategies are not in order of importance or sequence. You don’t have to master one before moving onto the next. They can be used individually or together in any combination or order that you like. You can spend time focusing on one, or you can spend time every day trying to tap into each. One of the benefits of the 5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope is that you can make them work for YOU.

1. Awareness

The first strategy is Awareness. We define it as “becoming more fully grounded in the reality that the only time something can actually happen is now, in the present moment.” But what does that mean? Be present. Too often we get caught up in memories of the past or in anxiety about the future. Awareness reminds us that we get to make conscious choices, to choose how we react to the situations we’re in.

One way to effectively use Awareness is by utilizing grounding techniques. These are used to get your limbic system and prefrontal cortex talking to each other. They can be used anytime but are especially useful if you experience a trigger, anxiety attack, or other unpleasant situation.

2. Acknowledgement

The second strategy, Acknowledgement, is defined at The Younique Foundation, is “accepting where you are. You recognize your truth and what you need to do to improve.” Think of Acknowledgement as a three-part process – you recognize your truth, whatever it may be, then you accept where you are right now, and from there you can see what you need to do to improve.

For example, if you are in the beginning stages of your healing journey, you need to recognize that you are a survivor of sexual abuse. That is your truth right now. Once you accept that, you can move onto the next step. In this case, it may be applying to The Haven Retreat, finding a local support group, or simply writing your truth down. Then, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, when you know better, you do better. You repeatedly use Acknowledgement in your life to recognize the truth of where you are on your healing journey, accept the progress you’ve made or the setbacks that have come your way, and then make a plan for your next steps.

3. Power Through Surrender

The third strategy is Power Through Surrender. We define this as “knowing what to fight and, more importantly, what NOT to fight.” You might consider power and surrender opposites, but they aren’t. You gain power by consciously deciding when you will let it be. There are thoughts and feelings that you’re going to have that won’t serve you, but fighting them, yelling at them, or berating yourself for having them will be neither helpful nor productive.

To fully benefit from Power Through Surrender, you have to be willing to recognize when something you’re thinking is coming from your limbic system. For example, when that voice in your head tells you that you’re not enough, you can argue with it or you can say, “That isn’t me thinking; that’s just my limbic system,” and move on with your day. This isn’t always easy, but with practice, you’ll be able to know which thoughts you need to deal with head on and which ones you merely recognize and let be.

4. Mindfulness

The fourth strategy is Mindfulness. Although you’ve probably heard this word before, here we define it as “the ability to focus on empowering thoughts and feelings while choosing to coexist with non-productive thoughts and feelings.” Mindfulness is all about choice. Are you turning toward the sunshine or the shadows?

Mindfulness is something that you can practice daily, and you’ll actually see amazing benefits from it if you do. Every time you are in a situation where you feel overwhelmed or upset, step back for a minute and choose your response. You’ll soon realize that you feel empowered by the simple act of choosing where to aim your focus and how to deal with a situation.

5. Faith

The fifth strategy is Faith. While you may hear this word all the time, at The Younique Foundation we define it as “the act of moving forward on your belief that wholeness and healing are possible, even if you may not see it.” With Faith, you believe that you are capable of healing and that every day you are taking steps on that healing journey.

One easy way to think of faith is as a seed. You plant it, give it the support it needs in the form of water, sunlight, fertilizer, etc., and believe that it will grow. You may not see progress every day. Sometimes it can be weeks before you’re even sure the seed is growing at all – but if you keep taking care of it and giving it what it needs, one day it will bloom.

For more information about the 5 Strategies to Reclaim Hope and how you can use them in your everyday life, you can read our Reclaim Hope book and workbook on our website at youniquefoundation.org/resources. Which strategy will you use today to help yourself heal?

two people holding hands

Survivors and Sexual Intimacy

If you’re involved in a relationship with a sexual abuse survivor, there might be moments when you don’t know exactly how you can be most helpful in her recovery. Uncertainty about how to help is especially likely to arise when it comes to the most intimate aspects of your relationship, like sexual activity. You want to have a healthy sexual relationship with your partner, a relationship that leads to well-being and continued healing, but what does this look like?

To help understand the survivor perspective, consider that, for a survivor, her initial sexual experiences happened when she was being threatened, coerced, or manipulated. She wasn’t in a situation where was able to fully understand what was going on and give consent. Due to these negative experiences, sex and trauma can be strongly linked in her brain. This connection isn’t something a survivor can just forget about or disregard. A supportive partner can be a key part of healing. Here are some specific things you can do to foster a healthy sexual relationship:

Focus on intimacy, not just sex

 Intimacy involves deeply knowing and trusting someone. Survivors often have difficulty trusting people, especially if the perpetrator of abuse was a trusted individual like a close friend or family member. Spend time building intimacy with your partner. Focus on both physical and emotional intimacy. Build physical intimacy through activities like holding hands, giving massages, or just sitting together to watch a movie. Emotional intimacy can come from genuine conversations about feelings, hopes, dreams, and worries. Strong physical and emotional intimacy can lead to a healthier and more satisfying sexual relationship for both partners.

Recognize that sex can be a trigger

 A trigger is something that sparks a memory and reminds people of a traumatic event. Triggers can make a survivor experience a flashback where she feels like abuse is happening again. Unfortunately, sex can be a trigger for many survivors. If you notice that your partner is beginning to shut down or experience anxiety during sex, it could mean that she no longer feels safe. Maybe her triggers include certain positions, sexual acts, places, or smells that you should avoid. Recognize that sex is an activity you will need to approach with care and understanding.

Communicate

 One of the keys to the success of your relationship is frequent and open communication. Discuss what is acceptable and what is off-limits when it comes to sex. Your goal here isn’t to explore past trauma in graphic detail. Your goal is to establish what will make her feel safe and comfortable. A survivor might feel like she’s ready for sexual intercourse but then change her mind. If your partner ever says she wants to stop what you’re doing, then stop. Continuing to have sex will only damage your relationship and possibly make it more difficult to be intimate in the future.

Survivors need to build trust with their sexual partners and feel like they are in charge of their sexual experiences. Focus on ways that you can make sex a safe activity that will empower the survivor in your life and strengthen your relationship with each other.