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So having a partner that validated my experiences and my reactions to them was huge."Opening up about sexual assault can also be re-traumatizing — if your partner opens up to you about past trauma, let them share their experience to whatever degree they feel comfortable."More and more research is showing that telling the assault story on repeat re-traumatizes people," Carlson pointed out."It is more about creating the space for someone to tell you what they want by illuminating thorough options and trusting survivors as the experts of their lives."If your partner does share one of these stories with you, resist the urge to press them for more details or label their experience."If you’re not a survivor and your partner discloses that they are, you don’t get to push for information," Danielle*, a 25-year-old writer and domestic violence advocate living in Portland, Oregon told ATTN:.In college, one of my big motivations for sharing my story publicly at Take Back the Night was to share it with the entire universe of potential love interests all at once, so I didn’t have to tell it again and again every time I met someone new. Sometimes, the relationship fizzled out before I had a chance to share my story at all.As the years went on, I experimented with many different tactics. On the one hand, I never felt like I wanted to hide my history of sexual violence from dates, just like I wouldn’t hide the death of a parent or a bad car accident.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 knew I felt messed up from what had happened, that bad things had happened, but when I did share them previously, I was met with blame, or like I was being dramatic, sensitive.
Every survivor is different, and they each process trauma in a different way.
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.
"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.
One out of four women and one out of six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. If you decide you don’t like the person enough to continue dating them, call them.