I received this email from someone struggling with sex after rape:
When I was in my twenties, I was gang raped by 6 men. I started counseling but stopped. I felt that unless the counselor had ever been raped, how could she possibly understand what I was feeling or how to help me?
I thought I could deal with it on my own. I started drinking every chance I got, going out to bars and clubs, getting into fist fights with both men and women. I drank every chance I got and didn’t realize that I was on a self destructive path until my friends and family held an intervention for me. I got a good job and stopped partying so much. I thought I was doing well.
I hated anything to do with sex and as soon as a man tried to get serious I would break up with him because I wanted to avoid the act of sex.
I eventually fell in love with my husband and we had a baby and got married and I’ve never been able to make love with him without cringing or feeling nauseous. I avoid intimacy with him every chance I get by pretending to be sick or tired. I can’t handle him touching me and I’ve questioned if I really love him so many times.
I think I gave him a chance because I thought he would understand me better because he knew what happened to me in my past and he is also a victim of child abuse but when it comes to the bedroom I have started secretly resenting him, and it’s not fair to him.
He is a good man who deserves a wife who doesn’t treat him like he has the plague. It’s like I want marriage without the sex. I don’t know what to do. I feel so unhappy and moody all the time. I get happy when my husband is away from home for work because I know I’m free. I feel like I’m dying inside and I know I need help. Please, help me understand what’s happening to me Mary. I want to be free again.
First, you are normal.
Your struggles with sex are completely understandable and expected. Many, many who have experienced sexual violation run far away from sex. When it becomes painful is when you’re married and sex is part of your relationship. You can’t just avoid it forever. Or if you participate in it, but feel violated and used, you’ll eventually shut down and regress.
Here’s the difficult truth: an untold story never heals. You have to share this story with a counselor or a mentor, even if it didn’t work in the past. And even more than that, you need to bring up this story with your spouse, even though he already knows about it. Ask God for the strength you need to share how you honestly feel about sex and that you long to be whole. Otherwise, he will perceive your withdrawal as a rejection of him. I know that is totally not your intention, but it most likely will be how he feels. Giving him context and truth may help him understand where you’re coming from, allowing him to become an ally, not a combatant.
This is something that must be tackled in the light, together.
Another thought is this: there is no passive healing. It’s obviously not worked for you to hide everything or push your feelings down. It hasn’t improved your situation to be silent. You have to want to heal. I’m not saying that you don’t want to, but I am saying there’s a time when you draw a line in the sand, step over that line, and for the sake of your own health and the health of your marriage say, “Yes, that terrible awful horrible thing happened, but I am choosing not to let it haunt me anymore. I am going to doggedly pursue healing and fight for light and health.”
Do this for the sake of your family. Your healed heart is the gift you give them. True, it’s utterly UNFAIR that you were raped. It’s UNFAIR that you had such terrible trauma and now have to live with the aftershocks. I wish so much I could take this away from you. But even so, there is a choice. Pursue healing. Ask mentors and godly friends to pray for you. Find a good counselor who is versed in PTSD or EMDR training. You don’t need to live in this state of shame, guilt, and dread any longer.
You may think, “I’m too weak. I can’t do this.” And you’d be right. You are too weak. But instead of being sad about that, remember that weakness is actually where God CAN work. He intersects the lives of the weak. With the strong, He cannot help because the strong don’t need Him. This is actually a beautiful opportunity to trust God do show up where you cannot fix yourself.
That being said, mind if I pray for you?
Jesus, be with NAME today. Speak truth into her heart and mind. Silence the voices of torment and shame and stress. Begin to renew her mind with Your truth about her worth and beauty. Revolutionize her view of sex. Heal the trauma from the rapes in ways big and small. Give her the guts she needs to speak openly about this with her husband. Help him to listen with understanding. Would You please heal and renew them together? Would You bring peace to their bed? Would You set her free? Send people into her life who will dare to pray her to health. We trust You to bring healing in Your timing. Amen.
You are beautiful. You are loved.
This may help you open up conversation with your husband. You can watch my husband Patrick and I talk about this very issue: