Understanding Trauma & Violence
Managing Trauma Impact


I was coerced into having sex with my ex- husband. I feel confused, ashamed, depressed and it's all I'm thinking about. I have moments when I'm okay and then it hits me all of a sudden. Part of me thinks it wasn't that bad because I said fine in the end after saying no repeatedly. Why do I feel like this? I can hardly breathe...


Thank you so much for sharing this experience. It must be extremely challenging to navigate all of these emotions and symptoms. Take a deep breath. You are not alone and we are here for you.

Before we answer this question, below is a simple grounding exercise you can try to return to your breath and get you back into your body.

  1. Find a comfortable seated position or lie down on your back.
  2. Close your eyes gently if you feel comfortable doing so.
  3. Begin by taking a deep breath in through your nose, allowing your lungs to fill with air. Count to four as you inhale, feeling your abdomen rise.
  4. Hold your breath for a moment at the top of your inhale, counting to four again.
  5. Slowly exhale through your mouth, counting to four as you release the air. Feel your abdomen fall as you empty your lungs completely.
  6. Pause briefly at the bottom of your exhale, again counting to four.
  7. Continue this cycle of deep, slow breathing for several minutes, focusing your attention on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body.
  8. If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath without judgment.
  9. As you continue to breathe deeply, notice the sensation of your body relaxing with each exhale. Feel the support of the ground beneath you.
  10. When you're ready, gradually bring your awareness back to your surroundings, gently open your eyes, and take a moment to notice how you feel.

This exercise can help you ground yourself in the present moment, reduce feelings of anxiety or overwhelm, and promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Practice it regularly, especially during times of stress or distress when you feel overwhelmed with your thoughts or emotions.

Now to answer your question...

It's common for survivors of coercion to experience a wide range of complex and conflicting emotions, including confusion, shame, and depression. Coercion involves the use of pressure, manipulation, or threats to obtain sexual activity, and it can leave survivors feeling powerless and violated. It's important to recognize that consent given under coercion is not freely given consent. Even if you eventually said "fine" after initially saying no, the presence of coercion undermines the validity of any consent obtained.

It's common for survivors of coercion to struggle with feelings of self-doubt and minimization of their experiences, often questioning whether what they went through "wasn't that bad." This response can stem from societal messages that diminish the seriousness of coercion or place blame on the survivor for not resisting more forcefully.  However, it's important to recognize that coercion is a form of sexual violence that can have significant emotional and psychological effects, regardless of how it is perceived by others or by oneself. Your feelings of confusion and self-doubt are valid reactions, and seeking support can help you navigate these complex emotions and develop a clearer understanding of your experiences. 

 It's normal to have moments of feeling okay followed by waves of intense emotions, as trauma can resurface unexpectedly and impact various aspects of your life. Seeking support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in trauma can provide you with a safe space to process your feelings, explore your experiences, and develop coping strategies. You deserve support and validation as you navigate your healing journey. Remember, your feelings are valid, and healing is possible with time, support, and self-compassion. Thank you again for trusting us with your experience. We are here if you need us.

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