You can ask questions, but don’t pry if they don’t want share something."Alison*, a 37-year-old writer and mother living in Seattle, told ATTN: that she was sexually abused by her father as a child, and she wasn't sexually intimate with a partner until she met her husband, at 29."After being together for three months, I told him about my experiences (my father also was a drunk, threatened us with firearms, and was — and this should be obvious — a total jackass).
I told my husband about the sexual abuse, but kept it vague and said it quickly," she said. "Ask what to do if I am triggered, or what that would look like. You don't have to bombard me with questions, but let this type of communication can be a casual, regular part of getting to know me and being with me."Pay attention to your partners boundaries and what makes them uncomfortable."My husband is very supportive, let's me talk about it if I want to, but never pushes me," Alison said.
ATTN: spoke to three survivors of sexual assault, along with Melanie Carlson, the Client Services Coordinator at Doorways for Women and Families, a domestic violence shelter that also provides support to victims of sexual assault, over email about their advice on how to best support a survivor.Recently, Haney flew into a jealous rage when her boyfriend took a phone call from a woman friend in her presence.Although outwardly viewing the relationship as a fling, her reaction to the phone call suggested otherwise.An unsettling number of Americans experience sexual violence each year — around 293,066, according to RAINN.It is extremely jarring to hear that your partner has been a victim of sexual violence, but if they do choose to share what they've experienced, it is crucial that you respond in a validating and respectful way and educate yourself on how to be a supportive, sensitive partner.Not everyone who was abused as a child reacts as Haney does, preferring casual sex.But she's far from alone, according to a survey of 1,032 college students published in the November 1999 issue of the Journal of Sex Research.May 15, 2000 -- Elizabeth Haney was sexually assaulted at school by a group of male classmates when she was 12.Now 24, the San Francisco woman finds that repercussions of the attack have made her incapable of connecting love with sex."It was obvious what I was telling him, but I couldn't say the words or specifics straight out. "Sex-wise is the same; I know he'd like more sex, but he respects that I don't want to."Carlson said that while it was important to pay attention to a partner's boundaries, they might also not feel comfortable revealing them explicitly."Being an attentive partner also requires that if someone doesn’t feel comfortable expressing their boundaries due to previous trauma, cultural norms or anything else that you take the physical and emotional cues that are right there in front of you," she said.He was incredibly supportive, holding me while I wept and divulged such a secret."Many survivors of sexual assault and other traumatic experiences are triggered to relive their trauma by certain stimuli, the Washington Post reported. "For all you know this could be your new dating partner’s first time making the personal choice to be intimate again after a sexual assault.