On Sexual Healing: Moving Towards Healthy Sexual Attitudes and Reactions

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The passage of time and positive sexual experiences with the right partner will naturally move you towards healthier sexual attitudes. You can also actively begin the process of shifting the ideas that promote the sexual assault mind-set to healthy sexual attitudes by trying some of the following:

  • Avoid exposure to people and things that reinforce the sexual assault mindset. Avoid any media (TV programs, books, magazines, websites, etc.) that portray sex as sexual assault. This includes avoiding pornography.
  • Use positive and accurate language when referring to sex. When referring to body parts use the proper names, not slang terms that can be negative or degrading. Ensure that your language about sex reflects that sex is something positive and healthy, and that it is something that you can make choices about. Do not use words that reinforce that idea that sex is sexual assault, such as “banging” or “nailing.”
  • Discover more about your current sexual attitudes and how you would like them to change. Spend time considering how you would feel about sex if you had never been sexually assaulted. Consider how you want to think and feel about sex in the future.
  • Discuss ideas about healthy sexuality and sex with others such as with your friends, partner, therapist, or support group members.
  • Educate yourself about healthy sex. Read books, take workshops, or talk with a counselor.
  • Many people find it empowering to know their sexual rights:
Bill of Sexual Rights

·         I have a right to develop healthy attitudes about sex.

·         I have a right to receive accurate sexual information.

·         I have a right to sexual privacy.

·         I have a right to protection from bodily invasion or harm.

·         I have a right to my own feelings, beliefs, opinions, and perceptions about sex.

·         I have a right to set my own sexual limits.

·         I have a right to say no to sexual behavior.

·         I have a right to experience sexual pleasure.

·         I have a right to be in control of my sexual experience.

·         I have a right to control touch and sexual contact.

·         I have a right to stop sexual arousal that feels inappropriate or uncomfortable.

·         I have a right to have a loving partner.

·         I have a right to have a partner who respects me, understands me, and is willing to communicate with me about sex.

·         I have a right to talk to my partner about my sexual assault and/or sexual abuse.

·         I have a right to enjoy healthy sexual pleasure and satisfaction.


One way you can determine if you are about to engage in healthy sex is by asking yourself if your current situation meets all the requirements of the C.E.R.T.S. healthy sex model:

  • CONSENT: Can I freely and comfortably choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity? Am I able to stop the activity at any time during the sexual contact?
  • EQUALITY: Is my feeling of personal power on an equal level with my partner? Does neither of us dominate the other?
  • RESPECT: Do I have a positive regard for myself and for my partner? Do I feel respected by my partner? Do I feel supportive of my partner and supported by my partner?
  • TRUST: Do I trust my partner on both a physical and emotional level? Do we have a mutual acceptance of vulnerability and an ability to respond to each other with sensitivity?
  • SAFETY: Do I feel secure and safe within the sexual setting? Am I comfortable with and assertive about where, when and how the sexuality activity takes place? Do I feel safe from the possibility of unwanted pregnancy and/or STIs?

Sexual Activity.

For many people it is essential to take a break from sexual activity at some point in their healing. This break is an opportunity for you to consider your own sexual self without any concerns about someone else’s sexual desires. It also ensures that your time and energy can be focused on healing and not on worrying about sex or sexual advances. Taking a break from sexual activity is an important option for survivors to have, regardless of how long they have been in a relationship and whether or not they are married.

When you decide to be sexually intimate with someone, challenge yourself to take some steps towards engaging in healthier sexual activity, such as:

  • Only have sexual activity when you really want to, not when you feel you should want to (such as after a long period away from your partner, on your anniversary, or on another special occasion).
  • Take an active role in sexual activity. Communicate with your partner about how you are feeling, your preferences, including what you don’t like or what makes you uncomfortable, as well as your desires.
  • Give yourself permission to say no to sexual activity at any time, even after you have initiated or consented to sexual activity.

It can be helpful to discuss guidelines regarding your shared sexual intimacy that can help you feel safer during sexual encounters. The following is an example of a list of guidelines that you can use in your own relationship. Discuss this list with your partner, and feel free to add to it or take away items so that it results in a complete list of ground rules that make you both more comfortable.

The Healthy Sex Trust Contract.

  • It’s okay to say no to sex at ANY TIME.
  • It’s okay to ask for what we want sexually, without being teased or shamed for it.
  • We don’t ever have to do anything we don’t want to do sexually.
  • We will take a break or stop sexual activity whenever either of us requests it.
  • It’s okay to say how we are feeling or what we are needing at ANY TIME.
  • We agree to be responsive to each other’s needs for improving physical comfort.
  • What we do sexually is private and not to be discussed with others outside our relationship unless we give permission to discuss it.
  • We are ultimately responsive for our own sexual fulfillment and orgasm.
  • Our sexual thoughts and fantasies are our own and we don’t have to share them with each other unless we want to reveal them.
  • We don’t have to disclose the details of a previous sexual relationship unless that information is important to our present partner’s physical health or safety.
  • We can initiate or decline sex without incurring a negative reaction from our partner.
  • We each agree to be sexually faithful unless we have a clear, prior understanding that it’s okay to have sex outside the relationship (this includes virtual sex, such as phone or internet sex).
  • We will support each other in minimizing risk and using protection to decrease the possibility of disease and/or unwanted pregnancy.
  • We will notify each other immediately if we have or suspect we have a sexually transmitted infection.
  • We will support each other in handling any negative consequences that may result from our sexual interactions.

Once you and your partner have agreed on your complete set of guidelines in your sexual relationship, you should also discuss what the potential consequences will be for breaking one of the guidelines.

Adapted from

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