Sexual trauma can be one event or a series of events that escalate over time. It can involve rape, sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and being pressured/coerced to perform and engage in sexual activity that you do not wish to engage in.

An individual who faced sexual trauma may experience guilt and shame, self-harm, dissociation, depression, anxiety and a negative body image. Sexually, they might experience lack of desire, problems with intimacy, pain during sexual activity, erectile dysfunctions and vaginismus. Sexual arousal can bring back memories of abuse and therefore there might be a negative reaction to the smell of bodily fluids like semen and sweat and sight of genitalia. All this can inhibit an individual to engage in intimacy and relationships.

The most important factor for a person who faced sexual trauma is safety, physical safety and then emotional safety. Speaking to someone you trust can help.  Counselling or psychotherapy can also help you process the trauma and the pain associated with this difficult experience and then work on re-establishing sexual health and positive intimate relationships.

Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on