What A First Kiss Feels Like After A Sexual Assault

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Reddit user throwawayballet shared a victory with the world, “I like kissing again!”

The story, which surged to the top of the front page of the Internet, highlights a widespread but often private plight among survivors of sexual assault: Even the smallest gestures of affection can be difficult in the aftermath of trauma.

I was sexually assaulted at a party about a year ago, and as you might expect, it really messed me up. I haven’t been on a date since, definitely haven’t so much kissed a boy, and sometimes have panic attacks in dark or crowded spaces. Recovering from it has really been a process–I didn’t talk to anyone about it until more than six months after it happened (I hardly admitted to myself that it had). Still not really ready for therapy, but good friends & advocates at my university have made a big difference.

Anyway, last night, I was at a dinner party. Hit it off with a cute guy and was basically dying to kiss him the whole time I was there. Talked for an hour and then, right before I left, I leaned in and kissed him.

It. Was. Great. He was cute and funny and warm and I floated all the way home.

I don’t expect much to come of it, but I’m really really glad it happened. It just feels like such a victory. For the first time I’m starting to feel like I’m getting back to normal. I had a semi-romantic interaction with a guy, and he was in my personal space bubble, and he held my hand, and I genuinely enjoyed it. I didn’t feel anxious or broken or afraid. Just happy.

About half of women who have endured sexual assault battle post traumatic stress disorder, according to the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey Report, which tracks the prevalence of mental disorders across populations.

An Australian study found 94 percent of female survivors reported experiencing symptoms — panic attacks, nightmares, intense anxiety upon sexual contact — in the first two weeks after an attack.

Another 2001 study in the Annual Review of Sex Research describes how experiencing rape can affect intimacy for at least a year: “Satisfaction and pleasure in sexual activities seem to diminish for a considerable group of victims,” the authors wrote. “Anger towards self, shame and guilt may predict sexual problems.”

Reclaiming desire can be challenging — but not impossible. A caring partner can accelerate the process, the researchers noted in the 2001 study. Understanding you’re not alone is also important for recovery.

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