7 Things To Know About Being Intimate After Sexual Assault

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead for 13 Reasons Why season 2.
Bryce Walker, the main antagonist of 13 Reasons Why season 2, has been compared to Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul who has been accused of sexual assault by more than 80 women since October. And nothing drives that comparison home better than a moment in the final episode of 13 Reasons Why's sophomore season that clearly harkens back to the #MeToo movement this fall. The audience watches as Jessica testifies in court about what Bryce did to her, and then Jessica turns into Hannah, and Hannah turns into Nina, and seven other women follow with sexual assault and harassment stories of their own.
Most of the women who told their stories in that courtroom found a way to heal from their assault and go on to have romantic relationships or even get married. But we only see two of them trying to heal in real time. Jessica and Nina, a new character who quickly befriends Jess, are on totally different timelines when it comes to recovery, and specifically when it comes to kissing, dating, and having sex again. While Nina seems fine dating and having sex with her new boyfriend, Jessica has vivid flashbacks of her rape the first time she kisses a boy.
While Jessica and Nina each attempt, at one point, to convince each other that their way is the "best" way to move on, they each have to find their own path to healing and feeling good about being intimate after their assaults. "There's no cookie-cutter answer," says Josie Torielli, LCSW, assistant director of intervention programs at NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault. "Just as all sexual assault survivors are unique and individual, all pathways to healing are unique as well."
Although one survivor might be ready to date soon after their assault and others might take much longer, there are some tips that could help no matter a survivor's individual timeline, Torielli says. And there are some pitfalls that come up during recovery that survivors might want to avoid. Read on for advice from Torielli and Sari Cooper, LCSW, certified sex therapist and director of Center for Love and Sex, about dating, kissing, and having sex again after sexual assault.

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