Sexual trauma is different for each individual who survives it. Some individuals experience trauma as children, whereas others are adult survivors. Some clients may be very communicative about their trauma, while others may have difficulty talking about it at all. Helping professionals who work with traumatic sexual abuse survivors must take these individual differences into consideration as they choose and implement interventions.
Consider the following case study and identify intervention strategies appropriate for your role and responsibilities as a helping professional.
The Case of Beth and Don
Beth has been married to Don for 3 years. Beth and Don are seeking couples counseling because the couple wants to start to try to have children, but their lack of sexual relationship threatens to make that an impossible dream. Beth and Don admit that they have never consummated their relationship.
Don has known since early in the couple’s dating relationship that Beth was raped by a stranger about 6 months before they started dating. Since that time, she has been unable to even think about having sex without having a panic attack and crying. Beth appreciates that Don has been extremely patient and understanding as she has undergone extensive therapy to work on her posttraumatic stress disorder (diagnosed by her individual psychotherapist). However, she admits that she is afraid that he will leave her because she is “not willing to have sex with him right now.”
Beth and Don both make clear that having children is an important goal of theirs. Beth says, “I have always wanted to be a mother. I know that having sex is a necessary step to making that happen. It’s killing me that I’ve still not been able to have sex with Don. I just want to get over this once and for all and be able to have sex like a normal couple and have kids, too.”
Post an analysis of how Beth’s traumatic sexual history may be impacting her marriage. Identify an intervention that you would choose to assist Beth and Don. In your rationale, discuss the underlying theory of the intervention and how it will address the couple’s intimacy problem.