Sexual Trauma: How to Navigate the Challenges in a Relationship with a Survivor

The statistics surrounding sexual assault in America are astounding.

Both men and women are assaulted every single day. With numbers such as these, there’s a good chance you may date a survivor at some point in your life.

It’s important to understand how to navigate certain challenges when you’re in a relationship with a sexual trauma survivor.

Keep in mind that there are varying degrees of sexual trauma. Moreover, the experience can affect each survivor differently.

A relationship with a survivor can be healthy and fulfilling. It can also be easier if you understand and are well-educated about this type of traumatic experience.

It’s natural to be unsure how to work through the challenges that may arise in such a relationship. Here are a few suggestions.

Educate Yourself

One of the best ways you can be supportive of your partner is to educate yourself on sexual trauma.

It affects everyone differently. But, understand exactly how it can affect people will help you to be more understanding and patient with your partner.

Not only will educating yourself make things less frustrating for you but it can make you an incredible resource for your partner to turn to in their times of need.

Communicate Effectively

Communication should be the center of any relationship. But, when you’re in a relationship with a survivor, it’s even more important.

You should never push your partner to talk about their experiences (it’s something they need to do on their own time). But, encouraging communication will help you both deal with the rough patches that can come up when one partner has experienced sexual trauma.

Ask questions. Listen attentively. Keep strong eye contact. Communication is about so much more than just hearing what your partner says.

If communication is an issue for you (or your partner), set aside a designated time to really talk to one another and open up about what you’re feeling.

Understand Your Partner’s Needs

Your partner may have certain needs or quirks that you may find interesting, or even frustrating. It’s important to respect those needs and understand where they are coming from.

Certain things in a person’s life can be “triggers.”

When your partner has experienced sexual trauma, they will undoubtedly have triggers. Often, unbeknownst to you until they come up.

Triggers could be inherently sexual, or they could just be something that happens throughout the day such as a certain smell or sound.

Practice Patience

Also, avoid trying to rush things along. One of your partner’s needs may be to take things slowly within the confines of the relationship.

You could think things are moving slower than they should. But, if you truly care about your partner, you’ll take their history into consideration and understand those needs.

It isn’t easy to be patient, but it’s often necessary for a relationship with a survivor.

It’s important to respect the needs and wants of your partner, no matter how strange they may seem to you. When you do that, you’re letting them know they are in a safe space with someone who won’t hurt them. You’re building trust.

Walk Through the Journey Together

Showing your partner that you’re there with them every step of the way will be a huge help for them.

Of course, this includes being with them through the harder times and more difficult situations. But, it also includes celebrating with them!

With that in mind, don’t be afraid to celebrate even small victories. Every step toward recovery should be acknowledged. It will help your partner to see the worth and value of their journey and can make it easier for them to continue.

Being in a relationship with a sexual trauma survivor isn’t easy. It requires a lot of patience and understanding.

But, when you can help someone on their journey toward recovery, it can make a world of difference for your relationship.

For support in strengthening your own relationship with a sexual trauma survivor, please contact us today.


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