Reconnecting with Your Sexuality After Abuse

Late last year, Nadia Munla, wellness coach, dance instructor and film producer, asked if she could interview me for an “Unsilencing Your Sexy” series for The Angry Therapist. I agreed immediately. I originally met Nadia on set of Infinitely Feminine. Then I started seeing Nadia all over the place. She’s attended numerous Crafts + Cupcakes events. She even brought her mom to one of the Crafts + Cupcake parties. Her mom was visiting from out of the country! Even recently, Nadia hired me as a photographer for her upcoming wellness website, The Pleasure Plate.

Therefore, of course I had to sit down and chat with her. The video is 45 minutes long….and Nadia actually ended it early…for time’s sake. If you need the warning, this may be triggering as I do talk about my childhood sexual abuse. There were times when even Nadia paused.

While I do think Nadia and I touched on most of her topics and questions, do to the video length, we did not get to all of her questions. I wanted to share my responses below.

Nadia: How were you able to start rekindling a healthy relationship to your body again? Was there a clear defining moment where you felt your healing journey began?

Sheena: In the video interview I mention how as I was being abused…one of two things happened. I had these out of body experiences where I mastered the art of separating my body from my mind/spirit/soul. I needed to disassociate and disengage from what was happening and I carried that long into my adult life. The other thing was that, because my sexual abuse was more like sex and not a violent rape that was about power or etc, the way I was touched aroused my body without my control. This confused me and for years, when I did experiences orgasms on my own accord or with a lover, I always felt guilt, dirty and full of shame.

This meant two things in my healing process. I needed to fully integrate my body with the rest of my being and I needed to stop feeling guilty about my own pleasure. How did I do that? Well, in addition to having to change my entire paradigm of thinking as discussed in the interview, I had to explore what I really wanted from life. What did I desire? What truly made me feel good? What did my body resonate with? Who did I want to kiss? And I did so without apology or any regard to rules, protocols and such. I had spent my entire life following rules on proper behavior. I had also spent years darkened and diminished by guilt, shame and fear. So I figured to hell with it. It was worth the risk to do whatever I wanted to do and not what I was supposed to do. I did what I was supposed to do and I had been abused, depressed, suicidal and felt like shit most days. I had a sneaking suspicion that if I lived my life following my passion, my desires and my own sexual drive….my life would get better. I had to live on my own terms.

Therefore, I used my sessions with my therapist to talk through shit and to set boundaries for myself. I made a list of what I wanted to experience in my dating life. I did not make a list of who I wanted that man to be. I hate those lists. I made a list of what I wanted my experience to be. Whether he was short or tall, a doctor or a manager at clothing store…I wanted to experience passion. I wanted to experience joy. I wanted to have the freedom to express myself and not feel judged on a date. If telling a man I like a latex catsuit during sex sometimes freaked him out…then I didn’t want to be with the man. So my therapist helped me create that list.

I also danced my heart out. I talk a lot about the transformative power of pole dance because it directly connects me to sensuality and spiritual eroticism but even before I found pole dancing, I would go clubbing multiple times a week with my friends. My best friend Lola and I hit up Funky Buddha Lounge almost weekly in Chicago and we danced until they turned the lights on. It wasn’t about sexuality. I wasn’t twerking with a man behind me. I was just moving my body and sweating and feeling my heart race and pulsate. That was healing. That brought me back into my body from a place of joy and expression.

Nadia asked me if there was a clear defining moment when my healing begin. Nope. There were numerous aha moments. I remember being at a bar…because I used to drown my sorrows in jack daniels. So I’m at this bar, I’m on my 6th or 7th shot of jack daniels. All my friends are drunk and ready to go to another bar. Some of them are sucking face. Others are causing a scene. I was sitting at the table there across from this doorman that worked at my job. (I worked as a Training Manager for a hotel.) And he looked me in the eye…the music is blaring, people are loud, someone next to me is making out….and he says, “Why are you here? You know you shouldn’t be here.” And I knew that was one of those moments when the Touched By an Angel person had embodied a human being and was speaking directly to me. I knew he was asking me that on a deeper level. I knew he was questioning why was I working at that hotel..Why was I getting drunk all the time…just what the hell was I doing. That was one moment.

There were numerous others. I remember once having alcohol poisoning. I had drank all night for hours and I woke up covered in vomit and blood. I could have choked and suffocated and died. I remember waking up next to a guy whose last name I didn’t know. Not that that matters, if you don’t care. But I remember waking up and knowing I didn’t even want to be there. In a span of about six months…there were all these moments and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to radically transform my life.

Nadia: In one post you wrote: “It is never my intent to put this experience “behind me.” I don’t believe that I should let it hinder me from living. It should not control my emotions. But I definitely don’t wish it away. This is part of my story and it has to be included.” This is so key. Many people try to forget and denial/suppression whether it’s about you or your relatives or friends pretending it didn’t happen… that stuff festers into a nasty infected puss pocket of emotion. What would you advise women out there who have thought to put it “behind them”?

SLY: Most often when people reference “putting it behind me,” they are saying so in the context of, “Sheena stop talking about this. It happened. It’s over. Move on. If you truly forgave, you wouldn’t keep bringing this up.” Or that’s also how some victims and survivors feel. Perhaps the thought of moving through this experience and healing is too tramautizing, so they want to do the same. They want to put it behind them in that they don’t talk about it or reference it. It’s like it never happened and they will proceed with their lives as usual.

The fact of the matter is that I have changed. My life changed. I was altered. My childhood sexual abuse affected me. It doesn’t have to keep me down and I don’t have to be bound to it but it has affected my life. It’s like never acknowledging that the holocaust happened or that slavery happened or that 9/11 happened. Which…amongst violence and a horrible need to control for power in a negative way…all three of those instances were horrible crimes against the body too. And we remember them. We share those stories so people do not forget. We share the stories so that we understand where we came from. No, I should not have been abused. I would never have picked that as part of my life story. But it also does me nothing to say, “I wish this had never happened.” It did. And it does me no good to pretend it never happened. I have to include it and transform the dark part of the story into usable energy for my life.

For other articles, videos and interviews of my story read:

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Showing 6 comments
  • Kimberly

    I love reading the things you write. I thank you for telling your story and I hope you keep telling your story. I at age 47 I am learning that it is important to tell my story of abuse. I write poetry so I tell it in my poets. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sheena LaShay

      @Kimberly, thank you for reading. I would also love to read some of your poetry. I myself am self conscious about my poetry since I consider myself “not a poet” but I need to put myself out there more. I’m also glad you are learning that its important to tell your story!

  • driseldajane

    How awesome it must be, to feel free and able to open up. I am currently experiencing that same feeling of needing a radical change. Your message encouraged me. Thank you.

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