I am so so lucky to have a boyfriend that inspired this post. He unintentionally triggered me the other night but I didn't feel triggered until the next day. It was probably the most triggered I have felt in years. He responded so perfectly that it inspired me to write this. <3Disclaimer: I do not claim to speak for all survivors and will be using the term "she" to refer to rape survivors. This is not meant to downplay male survivors or ignore gender identities. Statistically, it is the term that makes the most sense to use. Apologies if I offend anyone with my omission of other pronouns.+
Firstly, understand that your partner has been through something very traumatic. Triggers are extremely subjective and will depend on the individual. What triggers one person may not trigger another, and one survivor may be triggered by a multitude of things, while another survivor may never get triggered at all.+
Hopefully before you engage in any sexual contact, boundaries and triggers will be discussed ahead of time. However, don't push the issue. If your partner says she has no triggers, or doesn't want to discuss them, don't debate it, and don't push. It is so very important that your partner has control over her experience. Taking that away from her may make her feel violated all over again.+
If/when your partner communicates her triggers to you, stop everything you're doing and listen. It can take a lot of emotional energy and courage to discuss these things, and listening intently shows that you care and understand how traumatic such an experience can be to someone. It doesn't matter if you feel like that moment is not the right time, or that you don't have enough time to listen. You need to. If you shut down your partner, it is possible that she may be reticent to bring the subject up again. +
It is possible that the triggers discussed may not make sense to you. It is also possible that you don't think you'd ever do them. They may involve things like not wearing certain colognes, not saying certain phrases, or not doing certain sexual acts. Respect her triggers and you'll respect your partner. Here is an example of how to respond to trigger "confessions":
"Thank you for sharing that with me. I will do my best to respect your triggers."+
You may want to reassure your partner by telling her that you would like to know when she is being triggered so that you can stop that behavior immediately. But also know that she may not feel comfortable sharing her triggers with you right away.If you end up unintentionally triggering your partner:
-Stop what you're doing immediately, whether you've triggered her in the moment or she's speaking to you about it afterwards.
-Listen to your partner, even if it means listening to her silence. She may not want to talk.
-Don't assume that she wants a hug, or to be touched. Ask her how you can help and do what she asks.
-Apologize for the behavior, even if it was unintentional or a trigger that wasn't communicated beforehand. It is possible for triggers to come up that she didn't know about previously.
-Thank her for telling you she was triggered, and vow to do your best not to do it again.
-Give her the time she needs to recover. She may not want to engage in sexual acts for weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the trigger.
-Reassure her that you won't leave her because of her triggers.
-Remind her that you will be there to listen whenever she needs to talk.When your partner feels triggered, she may:
-Seem unresponsive or "numb"/dissociative
-Startle when she is touched
-Become very angry or irritable
-Have a panic or anxiety attack
-Have a racing heart rate
-Have difficulty sleepingWhen your partner communicates her triggers to you, she may feel:
-Extreme shame for being triggered
-Vulnerable and afraid that you will leave her
-"Broken," "Crazy," or "High Maintenance"
-Like she shouldn't have to put you through the process of understanding how she feels
-Like she doesn't deserve to have your understandingWhat your partner wants you to know, but might not say:
-That just because she was triggered doesn't mean that she doesn't like you, care about you, or love you.
-Just because she was triggered doesn't mean that she didn't enjoy other parts of the night, or other sexual elements of your time together
-That she may not ever stop being triggered, and she wants that to be ok.
-That your understanding means the world to her, and thank you so much for being so.
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