Managing Trauma Impact
Supporting Survivors


I’m a sexual assault survivor that is currently in a healthy relationship. My boyfriend is aware of what I experienced as a child. He’s timid when it comes physical touch because he doesn’t want to trigger any past trauma. How can I reassure him that it’s okay to show affection?


Thank you so much for this question. It's truly a testament to your strength that despite what you have been through, you have cultivated a healthy and supportive relationship with your boyfriend. His sensitivity to your past and desire not to trigger any painful memories demonstrates his care and respect for you.

It's understandable that your boyfriend may feel hesitant or unsure about physical touch given his awareness of your history. Many partners of sexual assault survivors worry about unintentionally causing distress or overstepping boundaries. However, his cautious approach, while well-intentioned, may be inadvertently reinforcing the idea that your body is still not fully your own and that may make you feel frustrated at times.

To reassure your boyfriend and foster a sense of safety and agency during intimate moments, I recommend having an open, honest conversation about your needs, boundaries, and triggers with him. Share what types of physical affection feel comfortable and safe for you at this stage of your healing. Emphasize that you'll communicate if something doesn't feel right, and that you trust him to respect any boundaries you set.

It's crucial that your boyfriend understands and respects your autonomy in deciding what you need and what feels right for you. Healing is a deeply personal journey, and what works for one survivor may not work for another. Your boyfriend's role is to follow your lead and support you in the ways that you've communicated are most helpful.

Encourage him to ask questions and actively listen to your responses. He might say something like, "I want to make sure I'm respecting your needs and boundaries. Can you tell me what kinds of physical touch feel safe and comfortable for you right now?" This shows that he values your autonomy and wants to prioritize your comfort and well-being.

You might also consider developing a non-verbal signal or safe word to use if you feel triggered and need to stop or slow down. This can provide a sense of control and security for both of you. Remember, healing is not a linear process - what feels okay one day may feel triggering the next, and that's completely valid. Keep the lines of communication open as you navigate physical intimacy together.

Encourage your boyfriend to ask for consent before initiating touch, even for seemingly small gestures. Empower him to check in with you about your comfort level in the moment. Over time, as you experience his consistent respect for your boundaries and autonomy, it can help rebuild a sense of trust and safety in your body and in your relationship.

If these conversations are harder than you expect, you also might want to explore professional counseling if you haven't already, both individually and as a couple. A trauma-informed therapist can help you process your experiences, develop coping strategies, and provide guidance on building healthy intimacy with your partner. They can also provide support for your boyfriend in understanding how to best support you.

By approaching your relationship with open communication, mutual respect, and a commitment to your autonomy, you and your boyfriend can grow even closer. Trust your instincts, be kind to yourself, and don't hesitate to reach out for support along the way. Thank you again for reaching out to us. You are not alone.

Safety Exit