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Trauma Tuesday: Orgasms During Rape and Sexual Abuse


faitha's picture

By faitha - Posted on 18 November 2008

Traumatized Adopted Child (c) Julie C

Today I am going to talk about a very difficult topic. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I do not shy away from the tough topics. Today’s topic is definitely a tough one: orgasms during rape and sexual abuse. Most people don’t want to think about orgasms during rape and sexual abuse, much less talk about it, but you need to be aware that this happens if you are parenting a child who has been sexually abused.

The ugly reality is that most children who are sexually abused or raped on a regular basis experienced an orgasm, anywhere from one time to multiple times, while they were being sexually abused. As you can imagine, experiencing an orgasm while being abused is confusing at best to an abused child. It causes the child to question whether he really liked the abuse after all and whether the abuse was his fault.

You, as the adoptive or foster parent, need to know that experiencing an orgasm during rape or sexual abuse is both normal and common. There is nothing wrong with your child if she experienced an orgasm during sexual abuse, and you do not need to worry that experiencing an orgasm during rape means that the child is going to grow up to be an abuser herself.

A baby is born into the world with its body already wired for sexual pleasure. In fact, many young children masturbate because it feels good, even though they are not doing it to achieve an orgasm. In a normal situation, a child’s sexual wiring is not “activated” until after puberty when the child chooses to be begin exploring his sexuality. In the case of the abused child, the wiring is “activated” much sooner.

When the child’s body responds to sexual abuse with an orgasm, the child is confused. Before puberty, most abused children don’t even know what their bodies are doing. All they know is that they are experiencing a pleasurable sensation while they are being harmed, and the pleasurable sensation makes the experience feel even worse.

When an abused child has an orgasm during sexual abuse, he does not feel peaceful and relieved afterward. Instead, he feels confused. He feels betrayed by his body, and he questions whether he is responsible for what has just happened. After all, if the abuse was bad, then why did his body just do something that felt good?

These are tough issues to work through. I will talk about how to help a child work through his feelings about orgasms during sexual abuse in my post on Trauma Thursday.

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Photo credit: JulieC

romee's picture

Their bodies reaction coupled with the fact that they often love their abuser (a parent, beloved uncle, friend, whomever) is part of why sexual abuse is so damaging!

Thanks for addressing a tough topic. I don't think a lot of people realize this happens and how incredibly confusing it is.

Romee

KT's picture

Hi Faith!

Thanks for addressing this very important topic.
These conflicting emotions and conflicting bodily sensations experienced during childhood sexual abuse often do set up tremendous confusion for the child. As you have clearly pointed out,it can become an overwhelming burden for the child to attempt to sort out these confliciting emotions during the child's very healthy exploration of his/her own sexuality.

This combination of such strong emotions and an intense biological response may become "conditioned" to occur together whenever a strong emotion is triggered/elicited during everyday life activities.

The co-occurring strong emotions (intense fear and/or anxiety/panic), along with the "conditioned" biological response (sexual arousal) may also present significant confusion in many daily life scenarios of a non-sexual nature.

Within the same scenario of chronic childhood sexual abuse, the child is feeling a myriad of negative emotions and a sexual response, among other responses. This may also create the potential for a "conditioned response" of a primary fear and/or anxiety response in any "triggering" scenario, while also secondarily eliciting a sexual response. This can be extremely confusing to the child (and to any adults involved in trying to help the child). (For instance, the child may feel s/he is having a primarily sexual response to non-sexual stimuli, when the sexual response is merely a by-product of -- and secondary to-- an intense fear/anxiety response.)

After chronic abuse, any triggers eliciting intense fear/anxiety responses (also paired with hyperarousal and a sexual response, as a normal biological response, all co-occurring during childhood sexual abuse) may often continue to confuse survivors (and treating professionals) throughout adulthood.

The confusion, if it occurs and persists, may be due to the fact that the strong primary emotion (for example, fear) becomes tied in with hyperarousal and the eroticization of fear. In trying to understand the complex response, the focus may be placed upon the secondary ("conditioned") response, a "conditioned" sexual response, and not upon the primary emotional response of intense fear and its "trigger(s)."

Not only might such an "error" in focus lead to a great deal of misunderstanding and potential misdiagnosis (which may also lead to potential mistreatment), the focus placed upon the secondary response, rather than upon the primary emotional response (of the "triggering" of fear/anxiety) may often elicit more shame and guilt, further perpetuating negative self-esteem.

It is critical we, as a society, in any/all roles dedicated to the healing of children (and adult survivors alike), become as educated and as insightful as possible in an effort to assist these sweet innocent souls in their healing! Many thanks to Faith for her tireless dedication to helping to coach so many in how to best assist in healing the deep wounds of child abuse.

With Deep Gratitude,
KT

faitha's picture

Thank you for such wonderful insight, KT!! I would love to reprint your comment as a guest blog!!

Take care,

- Faith
++++++++++

We must BE the change we wish to see in the world. - Ghandi

frankenbaby's picture

Here I am 61 and I still shake, have anal spasms and feel severe emotional pain when I think about my abuser. Is this possible? He never penetrated me or even touched me that I can remember anyway but my body has this response How does this happen? He has remained in denial and got away with it.....at the time I had no idea what an orgasm was or that I could have one....why the anal spasms...is that another sort of orgasm?

Thanks for bringing this subject up.

faitha's picture

Our bodies hold memories of the trauma, just like our brains do. It is possible that you have repressed the memories of traumas you experienced involving the parts of your body that have spasms. If this is your truth, you will remember as you are ready to heal. For me, it helped to invite the memories in. I would tell myself that I was ready to know my truths, whatever they were. Once I recovered the memories, so much about my life that had baffled me made perfect sense.

Take care,

- Faith

++++++++++

We must BE the change we wish to see in the world. - Ghandi

juliennedreamer's picture

Thank you for all this information. I just stumbled upon this website yesterday and already I am feeling a whole new level of self awareness. There are so many things that I have done as long as I can remember that I cannot control. From very sexual thoughts to needing to have notebooks within reach no matter where I am, to not being about to go downtown without my "bag", with notebook, handful of pens, pencils, crayons, book to read, activity to do, food and drink... I have tried very hard over the years to control my obsession with these things. Even after I recently recovered memories of abuse I didn't correlate some of these as hoarding and certainly not with abuse. It has just always been almost a family joke, it is such a relief to see these things as a logical result of abuse. When I was abused I had no control over anything, so perhaps as a child and as an adult, these have been ways to find control in my life. Also, the linking sexual response to fear triggers makes so much sense and helps allay fears of "what kind of person would think that" type of thoughts. Gives me a place to back up and look for a potential trigger and rewire my brain to see that this is the present and I am in fact safe. I wish people who abused kids would realize the amount of damage they are inflicting. That it lasts longer than the tears.

faitha's picture

Welcome to our site!

Because you are a child abuse survivor, you might find my personal blog to be very helpful:

http://faithallen.wordpress.com/

I write that blog for adult survivors of child abuse. I cover all of these topics and more, with the focus directed toward the child abuse survivor rather than toward the person parenting an abused child.

Yes, the hoarding is quite the family joke in my family, too. Every year, my sister puts a bunch of pens in my Christmas stocking. I love getting them. LOL

Take care,

Faith

++++++++++

We must BE the change we wish to see in the world. - Ghandi

LisaS's picture

I am glad that you have found our website and I am confident that Faith's blogs will be incredibly helpful to you. If you would like to post a blog of your own, don't hesitate, we would welcome your willingness to share as ultimately, you will reach someone else who is suffering the same daily challenges as you are.

Best,

Lisa S.

mark's picture
it's very traumatic experience and we can see a lot contradictory reactions. a lot of women working in escort service went through this and their attitude to sex is sometimes very confused...
briancalra's picture

this good post It is really nice, but could you tell me how should I use this code, it realy good blog thanks.

pillaithambi's picture

This is much debated topic. The truth is best known only to the person raped. Propensities and predilections of the rape victim are crucial in what experience took place. If fancies of the rape victim are aroused, although the victim enjoyed, it would not be revealed by the victim. The rest depends upon the personality traits of the victim.
However, as rape is despicable and uncivilised practice, a holistic approach is required about eradicating such inhuman practices, by right doses of value based education.

Sklarrd for Life's picture

You say a lot with very few words.

rogerz's picture
The effects of child sexual abuse include depression,post-traumatic stress disorder,anxiety propensity to further victimization in adulthood,[8] and physical injury to the child, among other problems.Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest, and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.
gleemcgrath's picture
Trauma can be caused by a wide variety of events, but there are a few common aspects. There is frequently a violation of the person's familiar ideas about the world and of their human rights, putting the person in a state of extreme confusion and insecurity. This is also seen when people or institutions, depended on for survival, violate or betray or disillusion the person in some unforeseen way. 
alecstewart's picture
The person may not remember what actually happened while emotions experienced during the trauma may be reexperienced without the person understanding why (see Repressed memory). This can lead to the traumatic events being constantly experienced as if they were happening in the present, preventing the subject from gaining perspective on the experience. This can produce a pattern of prolonged periods of acute arousal punctuated by periods of physical and mental exhaustion. 
kallisjack's picture

This blog is very good and informative. It is difficult task but your post and experience serve and teach me how to handle and make it more simple and manageable.Thanks for the advice. Today I am lucky and I find a lot of nice posts.