When a child/teenager is sexually abused they lose their sense of security, safety, control and personal autonomy. Many people have specific and certain memories of the abuse that are often re-traumatizing and intrusive for them.
I read once that these memories or thoughts become automatic and are reactivated by something in everyday life that reminds them of the abusive memory. This can happen to us consciously or unconsciously, and the trigger can occur from a number of sources including: a touch, a smell, location or physical sensation. Triggers can happen anywhere, at any time.
Every survivor of sexual abuse is triggered in their very own way. When we are triggered, the current situation is associated with that past memory of abuse, and triggering becomes a learned coping mechanism. Sometimes one may experience a panic attack, distressed, feel out of control or emotional for no reason that they can explain at the time. Sometimes we might also encounter triggers in the form of flashbacks (specific memories) or nightmares.
What about triggers and our sexuality? Triggers are highly linked to one’s sexuality when they are sexually abused and sometimes our response might be fear, sadness, melancholy or another emotion, but they may take it and re-experience in the moment when they are being intimate with another because they don’t know what to do about it. Some have learned to accept sex and the trauma as co-existing together and they really do not know how to separate the two, so sex for them can be re-traumatizing for them every time they engage in it, but they may also not have the words to vocalize it to their spouse. When a person feels overwhelmingly sad, distressed, and guilty or dirty after sex this is often associated with the previous sexual abuse but they may not know it.
Triggers are like a constant reminder of what has happened to us but they are also a significant message telling us that we are still healing.
I’m going to spend some time on “triggers” and what we can do to about them. I will also share a personal story of one of my triggers and how I am still coming to terms with it, and how God is continuing to heal this specific trigger in my life.
I invite our readers to share with us their own personal stories, triggers and how you have coped with and how God has healed and has walked through this trigger, memory or situation with you. I would truly desire for you to share with us what you have learned about triggers in your own life, because I believe it’s important to know that we are never alone and that others understand and are with us on this journey as well.