This post is brought to you by MELT Massage Courses.
I don’t believe that survivors of sexual abuse need to be scarred forever sexually.
I do believe that you can still have a great sex life. At least, I truly want to believe that. And this week I’ve cried a lot of tears over it.
Like many of you, I started watching some of the Larry Nassar victim impact statements out of curiosity, and that led to watching more, and more, culminating in watching Rachael Denhollander’s final statement.
Rachael was the one who got the media and the courts to take the case against Larry Nassar seriously. She was the first to go to the police, after meticulously collecting records, affidavits, medical research (to show that what he was doing was not proper medical procedure), and more, and she was so poised and confident that they took her seriously.
She has been relentless, and because of her, 180 women found their voice last week. It’s just amazing.
And Rachael delivered such a great speech. She somehow managed to marry Christ’s mantle of humility found in Philippians 2 to Jesus turning over the money changers’ tables, and did it all in 45 minutes. She was poised, articulate, and icy at times, and yet so compassionate. She even managed to share the gospel!
You can watch her speech here or read the transcript (although you really need to see her delivery when she says, “how much is a little girl worth?” and, after reciting all the mistakes made by MSU, asking, “is this the right way or the wrong way to handle sexual abuse?”)
But as I watched many of the victims speak, a few things really struck me.
Sexual assault of all types truly impacts women and girls for years.
I don’t think those who have not been sexually assaulted truly recognize how devastating it can be. These girls were digitally penetrated and groped in a variety of ways, but they were not penetrated in other ways. Yet the emotional repercussions these girls listed were terrible–anxiety, nightmares, inability to trust, inability to form close friendships, difficulty with intimacy, agoraphobia, so many more. Many girls changed their careers over fear. Many didn’t pursue careers. Many withdrew.
We sometimes say things flippantly, like, “at least she wasn’t raped.” But being violated matters. When someone takes something from you that should be private, it matters.
I wonder if, as a society, we forget how devastating that can be.
It is something that fundamentally transforms how you see yourself and others. It isn’t just a moment that you need healing from; you need to relearn how to react to the world and process what’s happening in the world, because your life has completely changed.
I’m going to say something that may sound sexist here, so forgive me, especially all the men who read my blog. But I’m not sure that many men truly understand how devastating this is. There is a subgroup of men who understand, of course, because we have many male victims of sexual abuse. And there are many men who are compassionate and do understand. But too often I hear men say things like, “well, it was twenty years ago”, as if she should be over it by now. I don’t think some men realize how this changes everything about how she sees herself and others. It’s like there’s a line that goes through her life, and everything is a different colour now. It’s not just a scab that needs healing; it’s fundamental.
But at the same time–I don’t want women stuck in that new, sad way of seeing the world.
I know that this impacts you. I know it has the potential to change your whole life. But I don’t want it to.
I want you to be free.
And so I want to revive a conversation I’ve started lately about how sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors can reclaim sexual confidence, because I do think it’s possible.
I think it starts with emotional healing, which comes from a work that Christ does in your heart. It comes with recognizing how angry Jesus is at what was done to you. It comes from seeing that there is ultimate justice in Christ, and that Jesus will be your advocate. It comes from seeing that you matter so much to God, and that He sees you as a beautiful, whole person, and you are allowed to see yourself that way, too. It comes from praying and learning more about Jesus and looking to Jesus, so that, as you grow closer to Him, the Spirit does an incredible transformative work on the inside that you may not even realize is going on. Until one day you wake up, and realize that the world has changed colour again.
I think it also comes with emotional healing with your husband. Our husbands can be incredible for us as we heal, because they can show us gentleness, and kindness, and unconditional love.
But it also comes with owning your own sexuality again.
Someone took it from you. Your sexuality is something that you are supposed to express, and someone stepped in and stole it, leaving you feel helpless. And now you don’t feel like it’s yours anymore.
But it is.
And I think that finding our sexuality again comes in two phases: reclaiming touch and reclaiming power.
How to Reclaim Touch When You’ve Been a Sexual Abuse Survivor
We teach kids about “bad touch” and “good touch” so that they recognize abuse. But the problem is that after you’ve been abused, all touch can seem like bad touch–or at least far too much touch can be bad. You may flinch when he touches you when you weren’t expecting it. Certain parts of your body may be off limits. So what do you do?
You be the aggressor and you be the one who touches
I often recommend that women be the ones who do the touching at first. Have him lie still and tell him not to move, and you be the one to explore him. If you don’t have the “threat” that he may move, then you have the freedom to be sexual without worrying that something that you don’t want may be coming. That can be empowering!
Add massage to your marriage
I’m also a big proponent of massage. MELT Massage has been a big supporter of this blog for years, and I even met Denis Merkas, who designed the video program with his wife Emma, when we were in Los Angeles in our RV last year.
MELT is an online video series that teaches you how to give an awesome massage, one little skill at a time. You just watch a five minute video, do what it says, and then the next night you watch the next video. Soon you’ll know all the skills to do an amazing 20-30 minute massage routine, that feels just amazing!
When Denis and Emma made MELT, they didn’t realize its impact for sexual abuse suvivors. But soon Emma started getting emails from women saying that finally they felt safe. So as they thought about it, they realized that massage helps abuse and assault survivors for several reasons:
1. Massage tends to be given in a non-threatening position.
There’s no direct eye-to-eye contact. And they even recommend starting in a seated position.
2. The person giving the massage is in control and it’s empowering.
I’d suggest even starting this way–if you’re the survivor, you become the masseuse first.
3. Receiving a massage is a good way to bring down barriers.
Once you’re more relaxed, you can switch places and be on the receiving end. And that’s a way to have your husband touch you without it being overtly sexual. And you just get used to it!
4. Over time the nature of relaxation makes it difficult to stay locked up and tense.
Massage actually releases endorphins and releases tension, so that you start to associate his touch with relaxation. But massage can also be a real emotional eye opener. As you relax, sometimes these deep, hidden emotions come up. And couples can then deal with these, and it can be quite cathartic. (If emotions ever get too much, of course, please talk to a counsellor. But this is often a safe way to let some of those feelings out).
5. Massage is nurturing and caring.
Finally, touching someone to massage them is touching them to heal and help them, not to take from them. So when you need to get reclaim touch, this is a great way to do it!
I’m not a sexual abuse survivor, but I still love massage! I still have a lot of hurt in my life, as does my husband, and we just find that massage helps us minister to each other.
And, of course, once you have gotten used to touching each other and helping each other relax, it can also be quite sexy! For anyone who has a hard time revving up their libido, for whatever reason, massage can be a godsend.
Right now Dennis, who created the massage videos, has a really cool special on.
He’s created his own unique massage oil, a 16 oz bottle now that comes with a travel sized companion, which he’s selling at 50% off. And here’s the deal: It’s an exclusive invite only sale–you need to sign up here to get the offer. You’ll be given a discount on the massage oil, that will let you get $44 off the massage course! And then if you leave a review on Amazon, you’ll ALSO get $44 off their Masterclass and foot rub videos!
Only a limited number are available, and the offer ends February 14–right in time for Valentine’s Day.
Reclaim power: Choose sexual positions that put you in control
When you’re trying to reclaim your sexual confidence, choose sexual positions where you are in control. The nature of sexual abuse and assault means that your pleasure isn’t even considered. Sex becomes entirely about the guy and him getting pleasure from you. (Sometimes when a man is assaulting a small child, he may try to give pleasure, but it’s not real. It’s still stealing from her).
This is a way to ensure that sex is about your pleasure and what you feel, and helps you reclaim the whole thing!
Finally, choose sexual things that are personal
This one is a little more difficult. When you’re starting to heal, it can be easier to treat him like an object, to try to make sex less personal, because being personal is too intense a feeling. Too many emotions are involved.
But as you get used to touch, as you are able to relax, as you feel a little more confident–try to let sex be personal. Look in his eyes. Use his name. Really touch each other.
Let sex be intimate, which was what it was designed for. Because I think the best healing of sexual abuse takes place when we are finally able to truly be intimate in this way. It may take some time. You may have to learn how to touch again. But once you do, please let yourself truly know him. Because when we finally let ourselves be truly known, and when we finally truly know someone else–that, I think, is when we can finally let ourselves feel truly loved again.
Many thanks to MELT for being such a tremendous sponsor of this blog, and for allowing me to hire some help (so I can free up time to work on a new book!). And many thanks for teaching me over the last few years how important massage is, too. I hope it blesses you, too!
And many thanks to Rachael Denhollander this week for being so Christlike–so fierce and compassionate at the same time. I am still in awe. She was put on this earth for such a time as this, and the world was truly not worthy of her. And I am so, so very proud of her.