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I have a very nice boyfriend of 6 months. He is such a good boyfriend and I feel very lucky to have him. I haven’t experienced many good relationships with men growing up. Most men in my life including my father have hurt me or abused me and I was quite sure that all men were bad until I met my boyfriend. The problem currently is that while I feel quite close to him and very much want to be intimate with him, I am terrified. I am terrified of what this could or will do to our relationship and am just not very comfortable with my body. My piece of shit father was verbally, physically, and sexually abusive. The sexual abuse went on for several years until my mother finally worked up the courage to leave him because of how badly she was treated.
I never actually told her about the abuse but I think she knew. My father always treated us like garbage and I was worried he would hurt her or me if I told. After this I decided to leave sex alone. I wasn’t very interested in seeking it out and felt ugly. It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend in college that I even began to consider myself attractive or sexual again. Now I’m in a place where I know he wants to be intimate with me, and we have been discussing it for a few weeks. I really don’t want to lose him because I don’t want to have sex yet, but I also know that this will be difficult for me. What can I do?
Dear Intimate Insecurity,
I’m sorry you experienced what you experienced growing up. No one should ever have to experience trauma, and it is particularly difficult when it happens at such a young age. It is unfortunately more common than we often know. Approximately 1 in 4 US children have experienced sexual assault. Children are almost always in a position of powerlessness and are vulnerable to their environment and their caretakers. As you said, you were afraid he would hurt you or your mother, and so you didn’t tell.
I’m sorry this happened to you. And through all of this here you are, resilient and moving on with your life. You made it to college and have found yourself in a promising relationship. However, you also feel stuck. Blocked by your past. This is often how trauma survivors feel. As much as they want to move forward in the present, they also feel as though their past won’t allow them.
It sounds like so far in the relationship you have been able to open yourself up to emotional intimacy but physical intimacy is where you feel unsure. Because your physical boundaries were violated growing up, as you are nearing those boundaries again your heart is sounding the alarm warning you about what happened last time. That’s an important warning because it is through listening and processing through those alarms that healing can occur.
It will be important to listen to your heart and your body as you continue to heal from your past trauma.
It will be important to listen to your heart and your body as you continue to heal from your past trauma. Emotional healing can happen in many ways, but it does take time and it does take safe space.
I would encourage you to consider reaching out to a therapist with expertise in trauma. A therapist with expertise in trauma can help you better understand what you are experiencing and can help you process through the many thoughts and feelings about intimacy that you have. While there are many good resources out there, one book to consider is “Beginning to Heal” by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis.
Dear Intimate Insecurity,
No human should ever experience what you had to endure from your father. Love is one of the most beautiful gifts that we can give one another. Your sense of love was deeply disturbed at a young age and manipulated through abuse. I am so deeply sorry for what you experienced.
When I was in high school, someone I cared for very much confided in me about being molested as a child from a family friend. They were ashamed and embarrassed and had kept it a secret for 10 years. My heart grieved for this person and I felt sick and angry. I also felt an unyielding responsibility to help and I encouraged this person to inform legal authority. It took a lot of strength from them, but the police were informed and the abuser was arrested for multiple charges of child molestation.
It took a lot of strength and courage for this person to share their experience and it took a lot of strength for you to reach out with this question. Have you reported what your father did to the police? What if he’s still doing it to another child in his life? This is the motivator that led the victim I know to report the abuser.
Anyone who respects and loves you will not leave you because you are not ready to have sex.
A concerning part of your email is that you fear your boyfriend will leave if you lack intimacy in your developing relationship. Anyone who respects and loves you will not leave you because you are not ready to have sex. Your early experiences taught you that loved ones were not to be trusted and that safety and security did not exist.
You can have a loving and supportive relationship, but may be feeling you cannot wholly embrace a loving partner because of previous abuse. Everyone deserves a life that is filled with love, hope and respect. I would suggest finding a therapist who specializes in childhood abuse who will be able to offer assistance and the resources you need to finally break the chain of abuse and help heal the wounds of your childhood. You can get through this and come out stronger.