Ask Self Serve – Sex After Abuse

Question: How do I start to get my sexuality back after years of abuse and humiliation? I want a healthy sex life but I don’t know what that is.

Answer: Thank you for reaching out to us about your question. One in four New Mexican women are survivors of sexual assault. The numbers of child sexual assault survivors are even higher. It is easy to feel alone because sexual violence is so silenced in our culture, but it is more common than having blonde hair. Locally, the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico offers free counseling services, including individual and group counseling (

We carry a few books at Self Serve that might also help you in your journey, including Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines. Healing Sex is like workbook for self care. Because abuse often happens in cycles, Stop Signs: Recognizing, Avoiding, and Escaping Abusive Relationships by Lynn Fairweather might also be a good book to check out.

It will be an ongoing journey to find out what a healthy sex life looks like for you. It might be helpful to sit down with yourself, maybe even take yourself on a date, and make a list of what you see as mental, emotional and sexual aspects of a healthy relationship. Writing in a journal may help you work through your thoughts and emotions. Perhaps make a similar list of characteristics of an unhealthy relationship.  Get to know your triggers and learn how to manage them in a way that feels good to you.

An important step in your recovery might be reconnecting with yourself via self love and masturbation. For many people who have gone through abuse, it can be challenging to reconnect with their bodies by themselves or with a partner. Showing yourself love physically and emotionally can help you build a positive relationship with yourself and your sexuality. It can help empower you around your desires and preferences.  Then when you are with a partner you’ll better know how to directly ask for what you want, and let them know what you don’t want.

Your body is strong and resilient. You have the potential to feel physical pleasure and joy, even if you were used to feeling negativity and pain. Remember that you deserve pleasure, and finding trust, joy and love in your life is something you can work towards.  Self Serve can be a safe space for you to find resources and support along the way.

We wish you, and all survivors, strength in your journey.

Email your questions to

Questions are answered by Self Serve Staff and edited by Hunter Riley.

Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider for any medical condition.

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