If you want to heal sexual trauma, this article on sexual trauma therapy is for you.
You may have spent hours in (and possibly thousands of) therapists’ offices, wondering why you are not making any progress.
If so, you may have neglected the somatic aspect of healing sexuality. In healing sexuality after trauma, somatics is key.
You must combine the professional help of a therapist with somatic work. If you do, I firmly believe you can completely heal.
Many kinds of trauma healing ignore the somatic aspect. But what is trauma healing if it doesn’t include the thing that underwent the trauma – the body itself?
Today I’ll shed light on this often neglected part of the healing process. I’ll explain a bit about somatics and embodiment and give you five powerful ways you can start healing from sexual trauma today.
Table of Contents
What is somatic therapy compared to traditional sexual trauma therapy?
For those who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, somatics includes the body.
This is integral to healing, often left out of traditional sexual trauma therapy.
Traditional sexual trauma therapy focuses on the psychological aspects of trauma. Somatic healing approaches sexual trauma from the stance that the mind, body, and emotions are linked.
Through studying the body, the true self is revealed.
And through working on becoming more embodied, we can release pain, shame, and trauma linked to the past.
“We do not talk enough about the importance of embodiment, and what happens to us when we are disconnected from our physical selves… Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that’s always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies.”– Dr. Brene Brown, Atlas of The Heart.
If this sounds far-fetched, imagine someone who is sitting on the floor. Their legs are hugged tightly into their chest. Chin tucked to their knees. This person is feeling threatened. Their stance is to protect them. The body speaks the words the mouth cannot utter.
Somatics and sexual trauma
When it comes to sexual abuse, and particularly child sexual abuse, somatic healing is even more important.
Sexual abuse touches and enters the body in the most literal sense. When a child is being sexually assaulted, they often disassociate. This is a wonderful way of dealing with the abuse while it is still happening. It helps the child to survive the sexual violence and relieves them.
But that relief is temporary. The experience is stored in the body. Sometimes it shows up as actual physical ailments or illnesses. In other times, uncomfortable emotions.
Through somatics, we can finally reach those pains in the cracks and crevices where those emotions are stored. And this is how they are finally felt, faced, and healed. For sexual abuse survivors, the only way out is through.
Hopefully, I’ve given a decent enough explanation of why somatics is so incredibly important to healing sexual trauma.
Let’s get going with the list of ways you can heal sexual trauma, the somatic (and tantric) way.
5 steps to heal sexual trauma using somatic and tantric therapy
The primary step towards healing sexual trauma begins in your bedroom, at home.
Self-pleasure is not something that comes easily to a victim of sexual trauma. But it is crucial in the healing process.
Having sex with yourself is the most potent tool in your toolkit.
Victims of sexual abuse often struggle with self-denial of pleasure. To get past this block and become sexually liberated, you must get past this.
Self-pleasure reduces stress, and pain and helps with hormonal imbalances. An orgasm fires off opioid-like chemicals in the brain, which is why we get that ‘chill pill’ vibe after we have reached orgasm.
Self-pleasure is also very good for exploring what kinds of touch you do and do not respond to, sexually. This is particularly the case for women. As Naomi Wolf outlines in her book ‘Vagina’, women’s internal neurological wiring is complex. It varies from woman to woman. If you want to experience TRUE (spine-shaking, jaw-quivering) sexual pleasure, you must start alone.
When alone, you are free of any pressures, fears, expectations, or triggers. You can take the time to identify and work through your blockages. Some areas may illicit a freeze response. You can then choose to navigate this problem area alone, or with a mental health professional.
2. Discovering your desire
Masturbation helps a childhood sexual abuse survivor to be more present in their body. But a sexual abuse survivor will often still have a very low libido.
Even though they may be comfortable with sex, it is difficult or impossible to want it. If they do want it, they may well feel guilty. Sex was once associated with so much shame. Shame is one of the stickiest emotions. It is very hard to break free of.
But as human beings, we are wired to want sex. Physical intimacy is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The world and the human race exist because of it.
To feel no sexual desire can make you feel empty and hollow. As if you have been left out of life, somehow.
Our entire society is built (and advertised) around sex. Either subtly or unsubtly. Not feeling any sexual desire at all can be extremely alienating.
When it comes to relationships, low sexual desire can bring along with it a whole host of problems. Great sex should be the glue that unites a couple emotionally, spiritually, and physically. When libidos clash, tension and resentment can arise.
Exercise for reconnecting with your sexual desire
First off, know that your sexual desire lives within your body. It ripples through you to a greater or lesser extent, all of the time.
Someone who has been sexually assaulted still has sexual desire. They have just become desensitized to it.
This is not dissimilar to the work I do with men around sexual energy and orgasm control. Sexual energy is flowing through us all of the time. Any moment can be orgasmic. We just need to become sensitive enough to it.
The pelvic rock exercise
This involves lying on your back in a bridge position. Then, gently rock your pelvis back and forth. Continue like this as slowly as you can, whilst breathing deeply and feeling grounded into the floor supporting you.
It is a sexual motion. And it should begin to feel arousing at some point.
At which point depends on your stage of the healing journey. Even if you don’t get aroused at all, this is OK.
Embodiment is linked to masturbation. In that masturbation can help us to become more embodied during sexual activity.
But becoming more embodied in everyday life is a healing process of its own.
Being disembodied serves as a shield. It protects us from experiencing uncomfortable emotions in ALL areas of life. But it also stops us from experiencing full joy and bliss.
After a sexual assault, the body has been afflicted in such a real and violent way. A survivor will live their life ‘checked out of their body.
Hence embodiment practices can help a survivor of sexual assault with their healing process.
Embodiment practices can provide you with a way to handle the intense feelings that life throws at us. Particularly anger, shame, and fear, which are all very present after a sexual assault.
Embodiment practices can also help us to self-regulate. They can quieten the stress response when we feel threatened. This stress response is acutely sensitive in adult survivors of sexual assault and is easily triggered.
Belly breathing is (almost) as simple as it sounds.
It involves consciously attuning to your breath. Pay attention to how you are breathing throughout multiple points of the day.
Are you breathing slowly and deeply through your nose? Or are you taking shallow, rapid breaths through the mouth? Neither of these is wrong or right. But it can give you an insight into how you are feeling emotionally.
Place a hand on top of your belly. Breathe deeply and fully into that hand. You should feel it rising and falling.
Whenever you remember to turn your focus to your breath, revert to belly breathing.
If you are a man, you can try testicle breathing too.
Another crucial aspect in the healing process of a sexual abuse survivor is bodywork. In the world of somatic healing, bodywork is an essential part of any person’s journey.
Bodywork and massage are also highly prominent in Tantra. Tantric massage is a unique kind of massage. It is deeply intimate. Tantric massage is a wonderful way to deepen the connection between two lovers. It is also useful in healing from sexual trauma or sexual abuse.
But sometimes a tantric massage (like the one in this yoni massage guide) is too much.
When there has been severe emotional scarring, non-sexual bodywork is where you should start.
Bodywork can be helpful on two counts for someone who has experienced sexual abuse.
The first is that it helps the sexual violence survivor to become comfortable with physical touch.
The second is that it can open up the areas of the body where you have a freeze response. In Tantra, we call this de-armoring.
Bodywork can assist a great deal in healing from sexual abuse. If you are uncomfortable with touch, you will lose many beautiful opportunities to connect and share intimacy.
Finding the right practitioner
There are of course some risk factors for a sexual trauma survivor with bodywork. Anyone who has experienced extreme sexual harassment or sexual abuse will naturally feel some anxiety around being touched. Their mental health can suffer. And the anticipation of a bodywork session can cause significant issues when it comes to mental health.
This is why it is important to find the right practitioner.
Usually, a same-sex practitioner tends to feel the safest.
Once trust is established, bodywork can be a massive part of the healing journey. But it needs to be with the right person. Ideally, there should be a long-term relationship with that bodyworker. Hence the work can go deeper and deeper into the body each time.
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A final word on embodiment
Coming back to your body can be hard after experiencing sexual violence. Your body was taken and used against you.
It can feel safer to check out and stay disconnected.
This is why embodiment practices should be taken slowly. Don’t rush immediately into a 6-handed massage. Sexual abuse is a deeply embedded trauma. Don’t try to run before you can walk.
There are plenty more embodiment exercises here, in addition to the two examples I gave above.
4. Healing sexual avoidance
Surviving sexual abuse or sexual violence can lead to a great deal of sexual avoidance, and self-denial of pleasure. Sexual avoidance sucks the pleasure from life through a straw. It can also land you in a sexless marriage and many relationship issues.
For a sexual assault victim, sexual avoidance can show up in the following ways:
- Purposefully not dating because of a fear that it could lead to sex
- Being afraid to ask for what you want, sexually
- Doing things that you don’t want to do, sexually
- Having very loose boundaries
- Feeling guilty when you experience pleasure
- Experiencing a great deal of shame related to sexuality and sexual experiences
- Rejecting your partner (continually) when they try to initiate sexual intimacy
Experiencing sexual violence teaches you that your body is just a tool for others. Your feelings and experiences do not matter. But they do matter. And that is why you need to heal.
Healing from sexual avoidance will thrust your healing process forwards. It can also heal your relationship.
Begin with exploring how sexual avoidance has helped you. Take a pen and paper and write a list.
Next, write a list of all how sexual avoidance has harmed you. Simply putting these things down on paper helps to bring them into reality.
Then, think about the meaning of being aroused. Write down anything that comes to mind. All experiences that you have had are relevant.
Next, make a list of the best possible outcomes of moving away from sexual avoidance. When you have experienced sexual trauma, this may be difficult. You can turn to some resources to help if needed.
Finally, list down all of the worst possible outcomes of embracing your sexuality. This will (hopefully) help you to realize that the worst is not that bad. Furthermore, the risk is worth it, to achieve the best possible outcomes in the list above.
5. Relieving yourself of shame
This last point is possibly the most important of all the steps.
Childhood sexual abuse, date rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are awful things for a human being to have to go through.
They are traumatic in and of themselves. And the inevitable shame with which they are laced can make a victim feel incredibly isolated.
This shame doesn’t just exist in the mind. It also shows up in the body. Shame is often insidious. We don’t even know we have it. But somatics can help to identify the clues.
A sexual assault victim experiencing shame may present physically in the following ways:
- Hunched shoulders
- Looking at the floor whilst walking
- Frequent blushing
- Aversion to eye contact
Through consciously paying attention to things like your posture and the maintenance of eye contact, the body can communicate with the brain, and override some of the feelings of shame.
Finding a support group is also key. And there are many online and in-person support groups for victims of sexual assault.
Many survivors go for years without telling anyone about their sexual assault or date rape. They feel dirty, violated, and ashamed.
Feeling understood will help to relieve you of shame. You will be able to feel self-love once again, in the loving presence of other survivors.
To sum up… To heal sexual trauma, you must work with the mind. But you must also work with the body. This is the essence of somatics and also the essence of Tantra. As mentioned above, the two share many similarities.
Thankfully, society today seems to be more accepting of the connection between mind and body. So hopefully the methods I have given you in this article make sense.
And sexual trauma isn’t only applicable to women. Although society suggests it is a woman’s problem, that is not the case.
As a tantric coach for men, I have clients coming to me with all kinds of sexual blockages and dysfunctions. Often due to trauma experienced in their adult life or their childhood.
If you are a man who has experienced sexual trauma and you want to go even deeper into your healing, I suggest checking out my free training for men here. Or perhaps your partner has experienced sexual trauma. In this case, my training can help you find out how to create a sexual relationship that feels safe and satisfying to you both.
How do you do sexual healing?
Sexual healing can be done in many ways. First and foremost, you need to feel safe and find support. Second, you need to stay connected to your body. This is where somatics comes in. Somatics can help you heal emotional wounds, by accessing them via the body.
Can kinks heal trauma?
Kinks can heal trauma by encouraging sexual self-expression. By becoming more comfortable with your kinks, sexual shame is alleviated. Feeling less shameful is essential to the well being of a sexual trauma survivor!
Can trauma make you overly sexual?
Yes. People can react to trauma in several different ways. Two people who experienced the same trauma might have completely different responses to it. Being overly sexual is a valid and normal response to trauma.
What is hypersexuality a trauma response to?
Hypersexuality is a trauma response to abuse. People respond to sexual trauma in different ways and hypersexuality is just one of them.
How do I unblock sexual energy?
Bodywork such as tantric massage is a wonderful way of unblocking sexual energy.
How do you harness sexual energy?
To harness sexual energy, you must learn to control your sexuality, rather than let your sexuality control you.