Childhood Equating sex/romance with violence (SA survivors)


I am a survivor of CSA from when I was a young child (under five years old). My only sexual experiences are from that abuse. I believe this has led me to have a really hard time understanding on an emotional level how sexual and romantic interactions can be separate from violence. I can sort of understand intellectually, but when I see any kind of physical intimacy it's like it sets an alarm off in my brain. So even though I know logically that it's consensual, it's like the emotional part of my brain thinks it's watching someone get abused.

My current challenge is that my younger sister, who I feel sort of like a third parent to, has a boyfriend. It is extremely hard for me to be around the two of them. My sister is supportive but can't truly understand what it's like for me. I want to be a normal sister, and spend time with them but when I see them together, especially if they show any sort of affection, it feels agonizing because it's like I'm watching her get abused, even though she is participating as much as he is. And then of course I can't do anything about it, because that's not what actually is happening and the logical part of me knows that.

Has anyone experienced anything like this? I feel really alone with it. And I'm also wondering if there might be ways to teach my emotion brain to not be so reactive in these kinds of situations.
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posilutely i experience similar. decades of psychotherapy have helped me build an awareness of when those cognitive links have been triggered and to insert new reactions to the triggered state, but the childhood conditioned reactions continue. ply therapy tools here. the irrational responses are especially intense for the younger siblings i felt like a mother to.

"detachment" is my frontline therapy tool for this phenom. it is often difficult to know which parts are mine to sort. emotionally stepping a few steps back gives me a clearer perspective on when i am projecting my own emotions and when the person i am caring about is in actual danger.


And I'm also wondering if there might be ways to teach my emotion brain to not be so reactive in these kinds of situations.

Touch, for me, is something that I both crave and that terrifies me. Pictures of a mom and child used to terrify me, because I couldn't see that touch without a part of me imagining the child/me getting in trouble and being hit. So, not exactly the same experience as you, but the same type of emotional hijacking.

What has helped for me is to slowly cultivate new images of intimacy, where that intimacy is the smallest of things. For example, imagining going camping with someone I trust, we are both in sleeping bags (so not touching), but near each other and looking at the stars, and talking about what we see. Or, standing face to face with my therapist (pre-Covid!) but not touching, and being close that way. It's building the understanding that I can be close to someone and nothing bad will happen. When that sense of safety is cultivated, it calms my fears.