What it’s like to have sex after being raped
WARNING: CONFRONTING CONTENT
A rape survivor has bravely spoken about having sex again after assault - and hopes that her story will help other women going through something similar.
Writing for Women's Health magazine, Katie Simon revealed that the first time she came close to having sex after the assault, she froze with fear.
She explained: "For me, grappling with sex after sexual assault was as much about the times I did not have sex as the times I did.
"Rape has lasting effects on a person's sex life, but for some, like me, one of the biggest effects was the length of time it took for me to have sex again. I did not have sex for over 21 months after the rape.
"Not all rape victims go without sex for that long; some avoid it for longer.
"But that was a lot of months for me, a previously sexually active young woman. I was lonely and horny.
"After the rape but before I had sex again, I thought of myself as two people: terrified-of-guys-Katie and constantly-horny-Katie. It was a joke, but it was also true to my conflicted feelings."
She goes on to describe how she battled all sorts of emotions as she struggled to balance her past with living in the present, but has since learnt to simply regard her previous pain as an element of her character.
Katie said: "Everybody walks into a sexual interaction with their own histories - some may be more violent than others, but nobody is really spared.
"We all struggle with self-esteem, or body image, or trauma. Sexual violence victims may have particularly complicated sexual pasts and presents, but hearing from others struggling with the same exact challenges as me has made me feel better about my own issues.
"Some people call issues like mine baggage; since they are inevitable and ordinary, I just think of them as part of being human.
"These struggles are isolating, and their effects are far-reaching, a combination that proves frustrating, draining, and sometimes downright dangerous.
But the truth is, these issues affect all women, and many men, in some capacity. Why are we so quiet when the influence of these events is so ubiquitous?"
Eleven months after it happened, she said she was in bed with a childhood friend when he asked her if they would have sex.
Katie said that her "body stopped functioning: My chest constricted; my shoulders curled forward; my breathing slowed, and nearly stopped.
"My muscles became rigid and my jaw tightened. To put it neatly, I froze, deer in the headlights. Any attraction I had been feeling toward him moments before was wiped clean off my radar."
Katie then bravely added that one of the most healing things for her was having conversations with men and asserting her own boundaries.
She recalls how she panicked when one man she was being intimate with grabbed her wrist - just like her attacker.
"One time, a man I was sleeping with wrapped his rough fingers around my right wrist - one of my primary triggers - and I froze," she wrote.
"Every one of my muscles contracted. I yanked my hand away. He froze, too, confused. 'I don't like that,' I said, waving my wrist so he knew what I was talking about. 'Sorry,' I said, some of the old shame creeping back.
"'You don't have to be sorry,' he said. 'I have to learn not to do that.' We both smiled and got back to it.
"It's conversations like these that have made the biggest difference in my own recovery.
"Yes, I've spoken with other people struggling with similar issues, but there's nothing like a positive, real-life experience to prove to myself that sex can be safe, comfortable, shame-free, and hot."
If you, or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.