Could He Hurt Me? – The Hard World to Date After Sexual Assault


Warning: content may cause discomfort

It's been five years now and Maya still cringes at the thought of what might have happened if her friend had not come in when she did.

The man was older and drunk, the music was playing and Maya was stuck on the wall. She knew that at age 13, she would never have been able to fight him.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the situation would have been a rape if she did not come in," said Maya.

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"When it came to dating after that, this situation basically made me afraid to interact sexually with men."

Entering new relationships and having sex can be extremely difficult for women after a rape or other sexual assault.

Trauma and PTSD can cause harm and the lack of comprehensive studies on this aspect of sexual violence makes it difficult to know what to expect.

"It's not something you can be," "Oh, do not let your past hold you," Maya said. "No, it was like my first opinion formed about sexual experiences, so it will stay with me for a long time.

"I always sit down and think, if I was not afraid, what would I have done in the past, or with whom would I have done it?"

Professor Jane Fisher, a clinical psychologist and women's health specialist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said the widespread fear of men was a fairly common expression of post-assault trauma.

"One thing with PTSD is the tendency to avoid any situation that has the characteristics of a situation that you were in. This is where sexual violence is especially harmful because it can lead women to avoid any possibility of romantic relationships or relationships," he said.

Professor Jane Fisher, a psychologist and women's health expert, says that men's fear is a common expression of post-assault trauma.


Professor Jane Fisher, a psychologist and women's health expert, says that men's fear is a common expression of post-assault trauma.

For years, the idea of ​​kissing boys terrified Maya.

"I would be afraid that if I went further, I would not be able to stop him … I would just feel like I was going to vomit and be terrified," she said.

As a young adult now, Maya feels safe enough to have sex. But she has a long way to go to get rid of the fear that consumed her teenage years.

The emotional impact of sexual assault can become especially troublesome when one enters into a new relationship, as Rhiannon knows very well.

One afternoon, her boyfriend tried to persuade her to watch a movie. "You'll like it, do not worry," he said.

His heart began to pump, his body tensed and panic began to settle.

When her mind started racing, she wondered if she could really trust that this kid would not hurt her.

"That's exactly word for word one of the guys told me," she said.

"I associate that phrase with a very bad experience, I just had that body reaction. I was scared."

Since being raped on three occasions, when she was 17 – once by a close friend – trust is not the free merchandise she once went to Rhiannon.

"[My boyfriend] I'd say, "Oh, we should meet at 10 in the morning for coffee," and I'll sit there at 9:50 am, like, "Oh my God, he will not show up," she said.

"I'd randomly scream" Stop! "During sex just to see what would happen.To see if I was really in control … which obviously confused him because he had no idea what was going on . "

Fisher said that being "triggered" by situations that remind someone of their aggression is a common way of post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma can affect post-assault relationships.

"Sexual violence is really a deep transgression of trust … after people experience they may actually feel that their ability to judge relationships may be lost, and I think they take that uncertainty into a new relationship," she said .

The first time having sex with someone after an attack can be particularly challenging. Fisher said that it is especially important in this scenario for the survivor to feel in control.

In 2017, Eva moved to a small town in rural Queensland to care for her dying great-grandfather. One night, a man from work, with whom she approached and confided, invaded his house and raped her violently.

His first sexual encounter with a new person after this attack did not go as planned.

"All the lights had to be off and we had to stay under the blanket," she said. "She touched me and I cried so much.

"It was as humiliating as when that guy left me crying."

Physically, the attack damaged Eva, leaving her with scars inside her vagina, but mentally also caused damage in the two years since she was beaten.

Eve does not feel more comfortable bare, her sexual desire has diminished drastically and, deep in her mind, she wonders, "Will that person hurt me?"

She still struggles to tell the women that she dates what happened to her, afraid – from experience – they will begin to treat her as fragile or victimized.

Fisher said that talking about the attack is an important part of removing the intense shame that victims may feel.

"I would encourage people to talk to a professional so they can acquire language as a way of thinking about it … so that it does not end up that they are dealing with a secret source of shame," she said.

Fisher said there is a strong need for more research into the area of ​​long-term effects of sexual violence.

"Funding and research on violence against women in all its forms is deeply important."

But, as with many traumatic events, sometimes time is the best medicine.

"I used to think about it constantly and now sometimes, even in sexual situations and dating, I do not think about it, as if it did not even cross my mind," Eva said.

"After that, I just did not want to have fun, I did not want anything – just the whole world was gray.

"But it slowly colored again."


Rape Crisis – 0800 88 33 00 (It will direct you to a nearby center), follow the link for information on local support lines

Victim Support – 0800 842 846 (24 hours service)

The Harbor, online support and information for people affected by harmful sexual behaviors

Women's refuge (for women and children) – crisis line available on 0800 733 843

Safe to speak – 0800 044 334, text 4334 or chat on the web

Male Survivors Aotearoa (for men) – follow the link for regional help lines

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.


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