Dating with sex
Because trauma is so common, it’s important to be educated about how it affects people. Intimate relationships can produce intense trauma reactions because these situations often cause the strongest reminders of a harmful past, and the body and brain react based on these past memories.
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.
It ensures both partners are on the same page, and helps survivors feel they have enough space to process their trauma within a relationship.
“If we’re going to be dating, and if we’re going to be dating a lot, we’re going to run into someone who probably is a sexual assault survivor,” says Cynthia Stocker, a licensed clinical social worker with more than 30 years of experience.
“It’s really pretty common.” Dating as a survivor often brings out traumatic memories, sensations, and emotions because of past experiences.
“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.
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.