Reclaiming Your Sexuality After Sexual Abuse

Hazel Larkin is an expert in trauma, abuse and sexuality. She designed, and facilitates, retreats focused on helping women to reclaim their sexuality after sexual abuse throughout the year called ‘The Pink Orchid Retreat’ in Co. Clare, Ireland. 

I’ve just been talking to a friend of mine – Tara* – who also has a history of child sexual abuse. Tara’s in her mid-thirties. She’s married to Simon, and they have four children. I was telling Tara about a retreat I’ve designed for women who have histories of child sexual abuse. I get very excited and passionate when I talk about my work, and I was in full flow when Tara interrupted me.

What difference does it make?’ she asked.

You know I’ve never had an orgasm, but – so what? What actual difference does any of that make to my day-to-day living?’

I had a few immediate thoughts. First of all, your sexuality is as much a part of you as any other part of you. It’s as important, as vital a part of you as your intellect, your desires, and your preferences for anything else.

‘Your sexuality is as much a part of you as any other part of you. It’s as important, as vital a part of you as your intellect, your desires, and your preferences for anything else.’ – Hazel Larkin

For those of us who have histories of child sexual abuse, part of the problem is that our sexuality has been impacted by the abuse. By reclaiming our sexuality, we’re reclaiming something that the people who groomed us, and the people who abused us, had control over. For many of us, it’s the last part of us that is addressed, or that is reclaimed.

Therapy and counselling – either through rape crisis centres, or with private counsellors, address a number of issues; like our internalised victim-blaming, our self-esteem; issues with unhealthy patterns; and issues around boundaries. What is rarely (if ever) dealt with in a meaningful way, however, is sexual pleasure.

‘By reclaiming our sexuality, we’re reclaiming something that the people who groomed us, and the people who abused us, had control over.’ – Hazel Larkin

Of course, the therapist best placed to help with issues of a sexual nature is a qualified psychosexual therapist or sexologist who works specifically with sexual issues. In the Republic of Ireland, there are very few qualified therapists in the field of psychosexual therapy and sexology. The specific training is not currently available in Ireland and therapists must travel abroad to train. So, if you realise you need, or would like, some therapy around sex, sexuality, and sexual pleasure you may find it difficult to get the help you need in this country. The availability of online therapy however has made access to an experienced sex therapist a more viable option.

This is one of the many reasons I developed ‘The Pink Orchid Retreat: Reclaiming Sexuality For Women Who Were Sexually Abused As Children‘, for women, to provide a professional, safe, non-judgemental supportive and empowering experience for women to explore the many aspects of sexuality and sex after abuse.  

Getting back to Tara, though, she’s typical, in many ways, of a lot of women I’ve worked with. For all that Tara and Simon love each other, for all that they are great together, I found it really poignant when she said…

Sex is something I do for him because I love him, and he loves sex.’

Now, don’t get me wrong!’ she continued. ‘He’d never force himself on me – but I love him, and I want him to feel loved. So, I choose to do this. And, it’s nice and all, but I could live without it.

She laughs and finishes by saying that she’s never really ‘finished’.

I just can’t…’ she says. ‘I just can’t go there (orgasm).’

I know it would be really wonderful for her, and for him, and for their marriage – and for her as a parent – if she was as active, and enthusiastic, a partner in their love-making as he is.

More than that though, learning how to inhabit her body, learning to surrender to pleasure, learning what she likes (and what she doesn’t), learning how to release her inhibitions, feeling free, and revelling in her sexuality, is something Tara deserves. 

We all deserve to heal. And, if you are a woman who has a history of child sexual abuse, it’s something you deserve, too.

Hazel Larkin designs and facilitates private retreats here in Ireland which are safe, supportive and non-judgemental retreats for women who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Hazel is a survivor of sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse; with an academic background in psychology, sociology and law.  She holds a Masters in Sexuality Studies, a BA (Hons) in Psychology, an LLM in International Human Rights, and is currently completing a Ph.D focusing on the relationship between Irish daughters and mothers, were both have a history of child sexual abuse. Hazel provides training, education, workshops, retreats, lectures and writes about the field of trauma, abuse, sexuality and sex positivity. You can find out more at www.traumarecovery.ie and follow her on TWITTER @hazelklarkin 

*All names have been changed

 

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy

Orlagh Reid

Orlagh Reid is an IACP accredited Counsellor & Psychotherapist, Addiction Counsellor, Gottman Couples Therapist and Fertility Counsellor in private practice based in Co. Kildare, Ireland and worldwide online via DOXY. She specialises in addiction, recovery, well-being and clinical sexology. To find out more or to book an online consultation visit www.orlaghreid.com

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy MIACP Therapy Ireland

Subscribe to my newsletter

Subscribe to get all my latest articles, free advice & more straight to your inbox!