Navigating Sex and Sexuality After Sexual Assault: A Qualitative Study of Survivors and Informal Support Providers

J Sex Res. 2019 Oct;56(8):1045-1057. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2018.1506731. Epub 2018 Sep 5.


Qualitative interview data from 45 matched pairs of survivors disclosing sexual assaults and their primary informal support providers (e.g., friend, family member, significant other) were used to explore survivor and support provider perspectives on changes in sexuality postassault and how those close to them have been affected as a result. Changes in sexuality included loss of interest in sex, increase or change in sexual partners, engaging in sex work, and increased sexual behavior. Support providers generally regarded promiscuity as a risky sexual behavior. If the support provider was the survivor's sexual partner, he or she discussed exercising caution when navigating sexual intimacy with the survivor. Not all sexual encounters with romantic partners were positive; some survivors discussed being triggered (i.e., with post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] flashbacks) or experiencing the dissolution of their relationships due to the sexual impacts of their assault. Counseling implications are discussed in the context of improving survivors' sexual experiences in general and in romantic relationships postassault. Implications can also be applied to prevention, scholarship on sex work, and sexuality research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sex Offenses / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Social Support*
  • Survivors / psychology*