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Abuse survivor with high libido

Dear Sex Counselor,

I have a question about sexual abuse. I am a female, age 22, and when I was about 11 I was sexually abused by my mother’s boyfriend. Now, at the age of 22, I think I’m a sex addict – but NOT the sleeping around type. I love porno movies and dirty magazines, and I masturbate a lot to women. I have not been with any men since I was abused, but because I like the feeling of being penetrated I have several sex toys (dildos and anal plugs). Is this common for someone who’s been abused?


First, I want to say that you may not be all that abnormal in your enjoying masturbation, explicit videos and magazines, and penetration. While some women who have experienced sexual abuse do indeed become over-sexualized later in life, this is only a concern if your sexual activity either interferes with your other life activities (eating, sleeping, or working) or is putting you into dangerous situations.

I want to encourage you to seek some counseling to understand how the abuse affects you now, and how it might affect you when you choose to have sexual relationships with other people. But do remember that enjoying sex and masturbating on a regular basis is not abnormal. Some women masturbate one or two times a day, and that’s within the normal range of sexual activities. Liking penetration in both the vagina and anus is also normal. If your sexual life does not get in the way of you being healthy, getting to work, socializing with friends, and generally taking care of yourself, then your sexual frequency is normal for you.

So be safe, talk to someone about the abuse if you need to, and enjoy your body. Pleasure is good for you – it’s only a problem if it gets in the way of living a healthy life.

The Sex Counselor

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Dealing with childhood sexual abuse

I’ve never told anyone before, but I was sexually abused as a child. It happened when I was around 7 or 8 years old. I’m 30 now, and some of the abuse my father did to me I can recall like it happened five minutes ago, but sometimes I have a hard time recalling. It’s really fuzzy like I dreamed it happened, but I know it was not a dream! I think I always felt bad about what he did to me – not because I felt it was my fault, but because I liked some of the stuff he did to me! Does this make me a sick person? Even today sometimes when I masturbate I think about it. I don’t want to, but it just seems to pop up in my mind. What should I do?


First, it is not uncommon for those who have been sexually abused to have experienced some of the abuse as pleasurable. Nerve endings do not know what is abuse and what is not, and it is certainly possible that the way your father touched you felt good sometimes. The impact of sexual abuse happens because of the violation of trust and boundaries, not necessarily because the abuser did something that physically hurt you. So your memories of physical pleasure remain, even though you know in your heart and your head that what he did was wrong.

It is also not unusual for a survivor of sexual abuse to remember those pleasurable feelings during masturbation. The issue is how you feel about the scenes that pop into your head, and if they disturb you. If they are disturbing to you, you can begin a process of replacing those fantasies with others. It takes work, and you will need to find those images and scenarios that also carry an erotic charge for you, and deliberately think about them during masturbation. If your fantasies are disturbing to you, I recommend seeking out Wendy Maltz’s most recent book on women’s fantasies (I can’t remember the exact title, but you can probably find it at most larger bookstores). She has a whole section aimed at abuse survivors and helping them alter their fantasies to those which would be more comfortable to them. If your fantasies are not disturbing to you, but you feel guilty about having them because you think you shouldn’t be thinking that, then I would suggest you work on letting go of the guilt. What you fantasize about is not what you want to happen in reality; you are not subconsciously saying that what happened was right, or that you invited it in any way.

I hope you have also gotten some support from a support group or therapist so that you can understand how your abuse interacts with your adult sexuality. If not, you may want to seek out some short-term counseling to help you get clearer about what feels right and healthy to you, and to help you get a perspective on how others integrate their adult sexuality into their lives.

No, you aren’t sick. You’re very normal. I hope you can now decide what you feel most comfortable with, set aside any guilt you have (guilt is not a helpful emotion unless you are somehow hurting someone else with your actions and feel guilty about that), and make conscious choices about how you want to experience pleasure.

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My mom’s rape and the consequences

About three months I was looking through my mom’s dresser – looking at old photos and letters, you know – stuff like that. I found something that shocked me, scared made, and almost made me cry. It was a letter my mom wrote to a man that I found out later lived with her family when she was a young girl. The letter talked about when he raped her when she was around 13 years old. I did not know what to do when I found it – my mom is 47 years old now, but no one has never said a thing about the rape. Should I let the matter stay closed? The reason I’m asking is my mom sometimes get depressed and talks about how things would better if she was not around (this talk has not happened in a long time). She has low self esteem and is a shopaholic. Could all this come from the rape? Also, when I was young around 10 my dad started to sexually abuse me. I wondered, did she end up with a man like this because of her sexual abuse?


You ask good questions, but ones that ultimately no one can really answer. I would not suggest that you talk with your mom about her experience, since she chose not to tell you about it. You found that information in a way that would feel to her that you were violating her privacy.

As for why your mother sometimes gets depressed and has low self-esteem, well, the rape may not have a lot to do with that. The fact that she wrote the letter may mean that she was working out her feelings about it, and has put that incident away. There are many factors that come into play when you look at why people are depressed or struggle with issues around themselves. One incident is not always enough to cause that. While those who have been physically or sexually abused are statistically more likely to physically or sexually abuse their children, there are not such strong correlations for those who are abused marrying abusers. It is possible that she found herself attracted to a certain kind of person, and that played a part, but the reasons people abuse are also complex. I would not focus on trying to attribute all this to this one experience. I would work to be supportive and understanding of what your mother struggles with, regardless of its origin. You can try to make it safe for your mother to talk generally about her experiences growing up, but you should let her decide what she wants to tell you.

In the meantime, I suggest you look at how you feel about this situation, and what it means to you. Do you blame her for your abuse? Do you feel responsible in some way for helping your mom? While you can help yourself, and work on your own self-esteem and life issues, you cannot do that for her. The best thing you can do is grow strong and sure of yourself, and that way you are likely to have a different life than she does.