Dating previously abused women
This can manifest in a number of ways, from fear of physical intimacy and trust issues, to flashbacks and body memories, to a highly tuned fight-or-flight response.
While it might be frustrating as a partner, these responses are born out of the way the brain and body protected the survivor during their trauma. Survivors need to let their mind and body re-adjust to safer relationships, which takes time and patience. Resources such as RAINN’s website are a great place to start.
She adds: “Not telling me how I’m supposed to feel or how and when it will get better is the big thing.” Taking the time to communicate how both partners feel at any given moment can go a long way toward building comfort and trust in a relationship.
“The thing that makes me most comfortable as a survivor is having open communication with my partner at all times, but especially during bad days and during sex,” says survivor Kelley O’Brien.
Your relationship may not look like your friends’ relationships — your milestones may be completely different. Finally, know that recovery takes many steps, big and small, along the way, but it is indeed possible.
“What makes me feel most comfortable is being with a partner who prioritizes consent not just in our sexual and romantic aspects but in every small way, from my ability to make my own choices about my body (how I look, what I wear) and my identity, to what we are each responsible for in our lives,” says survivor Alaina Leary.
Trauma is often the result of a series of significant, threatening boundary violations.
It ensures both partners are on the same page, and helps survivors feel they have enough space to process their trauma within a relationship.
“Communication — good eye contact, asking questions, not telling me how to feel, and giving me a choice/knowledge of plans,” is the most important aspect of a relationship for one survivor.
Recovery moves at its own pace for each individual survivor, based on the type and length of trauma, the support system a survivor has, and many other factors. “Understand that time for a survivor is going to look very different than it is for you,” says Stocker.