I've been through too many failed relationships and finally found the one. I enjoy writing about relationships and spiritual connection.
Telling your partner about your past sexual assault is a huge and scary decision. There are so many things you have to consider when deciding to reveal to them what’s happened to you. Things such as how they may react or even if this information is something they can handle are just a few of the many things that make it tough to talk about.
Sexual trauma, however, is not something to be ashamed of as it’s never the victim’s fault. It’s also important to remember to only talk to your partner when you’re ready. Never force yourself if you’re not.
Many people, including myself, have found the courage to disclose their past of sexual assault to their significant others. Some survivors open up repeatedly, informing their partners in every relationship. But what if you have never had a conversation with your partner? It’s never easy having this talk no matter how many times you do it.
Well, I am a survivor, and here are a few guidelines to help you navigate the conversation.
Have You Let Go Of The Pain and Shame From The Sexual Assault?
This is not only a very important step when considering telling your partner about what’s happened to you, but also very important when it comes to the healing process. This process can be a very tough one and is often accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame.
In my case, it took me 10 years. Time will allow the trauma to fade but the wound can remain buried for a long time. I thought I had moved on but my trauma is like a prick that affected my life. I had anxiety, I suffered from depression, and only when I truly share my anguish and shame did I heal and closed the wound. The first few time will be painful and the subsequent sharing will become lighter... to the point when you share, there is no overwhelming shame, anger, or guilt. This is when I know that I let go of this trauma.
Have the Talk When You're Truly Ready
It's vital to talk about your past assault with your partner only if, or when, you're ready. Sexual assault as a whole takes away someone's capacity to have control over their own decisions. At no point in the relationship should you be made to feel as if you don't have power or control over things that warrant you the right to make your own decisions?
As an assault survivor, you should not feel any kind of guilt for thinking of and making your needs a priority. So whether you decide to open up to your partner about what happened or not, remember it's ultimately up to you. You shouldn't try to bring yourself to tell them if you're not completely comfortable or ready to.
Hope for the Best but Prepare for the Worst
In an ideal situation, your significant other or potential partner will simply understand where you're coming from and the conversation will have gone as smoothly as possible, better than you could have ever imagined. However, that's not always the case. Unfortunately, sometimes some people don't know how to react to certain things. This s a very sensitive topic not only for a survivor but it could also have an effect on your partner as well.
Despite this, your partner should be understanding of the situation. Even if they don't exactly know what to say they should respond in a way that helps you to ultimately feel safe. They should take the time to let you know they understand and are willing to ensure you feel comforted and safe as much as they possibly can. This isn't to say that an "imperfect" response isn't allowed, but rather a reply that would otherwise make you feel safe and secure may lead to larger problems. You may need to rethink having said person in your life if they react in an angry or uncomfortable manner.
Communicate Your Wants and Needs
It's extremely important to thoroughly talk through and communicate your needs with your partner. This means letting them know what can and can't happen in regards to intimacy or any other activities that could cause triggers. Being that assault is a very traumatic experience, this could help keep you in a state of calmness as often as possible which is important when healing from trauma.
It's also important to note that you can have a healthy sex life despite having gone through a sexual assault, and setting boundaries can greatly help with this. For instance, be sure to communicate the importance of touch and intimacy to your partner. Coming to an agreement about sex before taking things further can certainly help to keep an open and healthy dialogue about things. It's also ideal to let them know what you don't feel comfortable with regarding touch or anything else during intimacy. This helps to keep your partner in the know so they can do what's need to always ensure your comfort and safety in the bedroom.
Choosing the Conversation Setting is Important
Deciding where to have the talk is just as important as deciding when to have it. Certain environments can potentially make a survivor more uncomfortable than others. It's best to choose a setting that will only provide as a comfort and that can help you feel at least a little at ease to have the conversation with your partner.
It's also important to carefully choose where to talk as some settings could cause negative emotions to surface such as the bedroom or anywhere that could be considered too intimate. It's important you're emotions aren't running high during such a vulnerable conversation. You want to be able to talk with your partner and get all of your points across as clearly as possible. So choosing a neutral sort of environment is ideal for all involved. This makes it much more calming for you and also for your partner.
Tell or Hide?
When it comes to whether you should reveal to your current partner about your past sexual assault, there are a few things you need to consider. It would be best to first consider what your main goal in telling them is. Think about what exactly you want or trying to accomplish in telling them. While the answer may be obvious, revealing such a sensitive part of your past to your partner is never a black and white situation. It’s very complex as emotions can run high and potentially change the scope of things.
When thinking about your goal or goals or in telling them, be sure they are healthy goals that can result in a more positive outcome for you both. Be sure to effectively communicate any concerns you may even have regarding how they feel once you have told your partner. Make it clear exactly how you feel and the hope you may have for moving forward should you both decide to do so.
It’s also best to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for any potential outcomes apart from what you may hope. Sometimes people, even in relationships, may react to certain situations in a way we may not expect. This can come as a shock but preparing yourself can certainly help you in the end.
Even if you know without a doubt and are entirely confident in their behavior it’s still ideal to have “what if” in the back of your mind. Some things are more difficult to handle for some more than others and unfortunately, relationships are no exception. By preparing yourself ultimately in the end you will have softened the blow despite things not going the way you had imagined.
At What Stage of Dating Should I Tell My Partner About the Sexual Assault
Coming out and telling your partner about past sexual assault can be a very scary thing. You may be unsure of how they will feel and react, or if their feelings may change about the relationship. This can be a very heavy thing to talk about but if you’re wanting to tell your partner there are ways to help make it a little easier.
The best way to go about telling your partner is to make sure you have a great foundation of trust that you have established for the relationship. When it comes to establishing trust, it’s not something you can do overnight. It will take some time as trust is something you build in a relationship. So, if you’re in a long-term relationship with your partner where you have been with them for months or even years, this may be an ideal situation and time to tell them.
Being with someone for a long amount of time allows you both to understand each other on a much deeper level where you can become comfortable around them. This also allows you to gauge how they react to certain things and in certain situations. If you feel you know your partner well enough and that they will have an understanding of what you have been through especially having been with them for a while, it’s certainly worth opening up a dialogue about your past sexual assault.
However, if you have not yet gotten a sense of how they may react then it may be best to allow more time to pass in the relationship. You should not ever feel so uncomfortable that you aren’t sure how your partner will react. Let more time pass and once you feel more comfortable about opening up then have a conversation with them.
Moving Forward: How Can My Partner Help
Having a supportive partner after opening up about your past sexual assault can make all the difference in the world. From the smallest to the biggest things, there are ways they can help encourage your journey of healing while you both are in a relationship. Having a support system is very, very important. Healing from trauma generally speaking is a long-term journey and when in a relationship your partner should want to help you along that journey.
That being said, your partner or significant other can make sure your emotional needs are met by ultimately being gentle and considerate of your emotional and physical needs. By simply shifting the focus to you during sex and ensuring they know and feel you're in control. Making sure you both thoroughly discuss and understand your physical boundaries as well as your triggers. It's also important to, upon a discussion, that you make it clear and let your partner know you prefer not to go into detail about your assault as this alone could trigger your emotions. All in all your partner simply needs to be a patient support system throughout the duration of your relationship.
Navigating a relationship can be a challenge as a sexual assault survivor but it doesn't necessarily have to be. As long as you and your partner keep an open communication, set boundaries, and ensure your needs as a survivor are met then the relationship can absolutely flourish. This is not to say forget about your partner's needs but it is vital that they understand what comes with your journey of healing and there's nothing wrong with ensuring you feel secure in every way.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Muriel B Tewes