On a necessary breakdown

I was the one raped by a cop a year ago. Besides some dude that was on and off again before and after that, I haven’t really been physical with anyone. I’ve felt asexual for so long… Until last night I was with a guy I’ve been dating. It got physical for the first time last night and I had a physical reaction- there’s no better way to describe it besides straight PTSD. I was so scared I’d ask him to stop and he wouldn’t be one of the outliers that stops on the first hand push away or “no.” But he did. But I still cried and had to explain. He held me and was amazingly sweet, even told me he’d sit in the waiting room at therapy when I mentioned I definitely need to go back, but I still feel torn up inside. I didn’t think it still had a hold of me, but now I feel like it will always creep back into me when with someone new. How do I accept and live with that? How do I live with this? I got so angry last night because I had convinced myself I cleansed myself of it months ago, but now it feels like such a major part of my story forever.


It will not always creep back into you. You will get better. It will always be a part of your story, but you will not always have to live with it.

There was a part of you that didn’t think the rape still had a hold on you, and there was a part of you that manifested all of that asexuality you felt. One was a coping method of the thinking part of you, and the other was a coping method of the feeling part of you. Both parts were doing their best to protect you from pain, but they weren’t reconcilable, and they certainly weren’t sustainable.

It really is okay that you had a breakdown. The physical reaction you had was a good thing, one that quite frankly was inevitable. You needed to have it. You needed to feel all of that pain you’ve been avoiding. I know it didn’t feel like anything positive, but it was. It was progress.

You’re absolutely right to want to go back to therapy. You’ve still got some work to do, and this is the perfect time to do it. On a practical note, I highly recommend you find a therapist who specializes in EMDR. It really works, and it’s exactly what you need for the kind of trauma you experienced.

I know you aren’t feeling it at the moment, but this is you healing. You’re ready to move forward now in a way that you weren’t before, and things will be different. It won’t be an act of cleansing this time. It will be an act of acceptance, and you will get better.


11 thoughts on “On a necessary breakdown

  1. Radio says:

    You’re doing well. It’s not something that’ll last forever, and it not uncommon at all. I felt really asexual for a long time, and any sexual contact would trigger a whole lot of PTSD-like symptoms. You may have a breakdown like this with several different guys or with the same guy several times, but it’ll get better. It may never be an experience that leaves you, but one day it’ll stop being an experience that paralyzes you, that shakes you, that leaves you curled up and gasping for breath. One day you’ll be reminded of it, and it’ll feel so distant that it’ll feel like it happened to another person. I’m still not sure how I found my boyfriend and made the leap to be with him, but I do know that I had to wait for the right time. For me, the trauma of sex is much less existent than it was a couple years ago, but I still mourn what I feel I lost during the times I felt so hurt. That feeling of loss sometimes make it feel like sexual abuse will always hang over me, but healing is a process. It’s not necessarily linear, and I’m worlds better than I used to be. It takes time, and there are a lot of people in the world who will understand and support you. I wish you all the luck and support and love and strength.

  2. PolicyChick says:

    I have been in your position, have reacted as you have, and I can report it does get better.

    After my sexual assault/attempted rape, I did all the right things (in terms of therapy, etc.) but I remember thinking, “Well that’s it. The sexual part of me is dead and I guess I won’t have sex again.” I felt like that was the ultimate thing he took from me – my identity as a sexual being. The motherfucker.

    But that general feeling eventually healed.

    However, I still had to overcome the panic and anxiety that I had regarding a specific sex act. I couldn’t do it for a long long LONG time. But finally, one night (with a new guy, after I told him The Story including The Thing I Can’t Do) I was ready to -maybe- try. And I could! And it was good!

    You’ll come through it too. Just be patient with yourself and open with your partners. As someone said, It’ll be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
    Good luck, Girl.

  3. t. says:

    Sometimes with all the sassy and hilarious shut downs I forget what valuable work you do here, CQ.

    I’ve been meaning to say how much “On your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend” and the concept of emotional self-harm changed my life…

  4. Bjork says:

    I had PTSD too, from bad sexual experiences in my pre-teens and early teens. I regularly had flashbacks, nightmares, felt overall horrible and shameful. I avoided sex for years, including masturbation.

    Then, I started talking about it. And that changed everything for me, over time. Just saying it out loud to people that wouldn’t judge me. Talking about it for a while, the details, the upsetting things, everything. Or just silly things about it. And after a while (a few years) I can suddenly think about them without even feeling bad.

    I wouldn’t say I’m cured, and being so young when I had these experiences has given me some weird quirks in bed, but overall I’m feeling normal sexually and healthy mentally when it comes to sex and men in general. It’s helped a lot having a supportive guy around, just like it seems the OP has.

  5. JustThisGirl says:

    I was also raped about a year ago and I have the same symptoms. I had the opposite reaction from OP and other commenters in that I tried to get back into sex as soon as possible, and I had a lot of it with many different partners in an attempt to feel normal after what happened. I have always been a very sensual and sexual person, and I think I was hoping I could speed up the healing process by replacing those negative associations with newer, more positive ones. What I discovered is there is no way to speed it up. I’m not a psychologist or anything, but it feels to me like my brain can only process the trauma a little bit at a time, which explains why I can’t always predict what will trigger me or when.
    What I do know is this: don’t be ashamed of your reactions, whatever form they take. I have predictable reactions, like flashbacks and the inability to engage in the specific acts I was forced into during the attack. But I also discovered something that deeply disturbed me at first, which is that I now enjoy bondage and submission as a part of sexual play. On the surface it sounds pretty f***ed up, but after reading and discussing it with some seasoned BDSM practitioners, I realized that for me, it’s a way to rewrite the experience with me in control. It’s not for me, but I’ve met people who role-play the event in the bedroom until it no longer triggers them. Another person I know reads fan fiction that involves graphic rape scenes as way to help process their own experience.
    Just know that whatever form your healing takes, it’s okay, as long as you aren’t hurting yourself or anyone else in the process.
    OP, I think I speak for many, many people who have gone through it when I say: We love you. We support you. We hear you.

  6. jackalope says:

    Just wanted to throw in: EMDR works. I have been doing EMDR therapy for about 2 years and it has helped me with everything from dealing with social anxiety at parties to working through childhood sexual abuse.

  7. PK says:

    EMDR changed my life too! I did therapy off and on for almost 20 years, each time thinking I was “done.” There was a lot of unresolved anger lurking underneath the surface that I was never addressing. After a just a few sessions of EMDR I had a breakthrough and just let it all go. It took me a few months to a year to learn how to live my life again without all that anger. It was such a part of me for so long. I tapped into it a lot as a resource, used it as fuel, but I’m so much happier now. Now I use healthy feelings as fuel.

  8. Jessica Sen says:

    Much, much love. Please trust the Coquette – you will get better and you are getting better. I recommend easing yourself into sex again by giving yourself orgasms and understanding your body and its sore points. Trauma can be physically stored in our meat bodies. Speaking from personal experience, I don’t recommend letting this guy sit in the waiting room. It’s a personal private hell you are going through and you need to do this on your own. It would be better to have your best friend in the waiting room, not a guy with purple balls who thinks your ass is hot.

  9. Spenser says:

    As a newly licensed Counselor, EMDR is something that I’m chomping at the bit to become certified in. It is extraordinary in its transformative healing. I’d also recommend Brainspotting (an offshoot of Shapiro’s EMDR) if you can’t find an EMDR therapist in your area. My therapist used Brainspotting with me during my own personal therapy (Yes, many therapists have their own therapists!), and it changed my life immensely.

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