Orgasm and Arousal During Rape or Sexual Assault: IamA Psychotherapist Requested to Revisit this Topic for Reddit. AMA!
FINAL UPDATE:(2/4/14) I think I've responded to every first-order question here! If you have a question or point that I missed, please re-post it and I will do my best to check back and reply. I continue to work through all of the PM's many of you sent and will eventually get to everyone. This was both a challenging experience and an amazing joy. Once again, thank you all so much for your supportive thoughts and comments. And, who knows, maybe we'll do it again in a year or so! Some of you have requested I host a topic more generally on the subject of rape/molestation and its consequences. I'm open to that, if there is enough interest. Thank you, Reddit!
TOPIC The idea of having an orgasm or feeling arousal during rape or molestation is a confusing and difficult one for many people, both survivors and secondary-survivors (friends/family). Many do not believe it's possible for a woman or man to achieve orgasm during rape or other kinds of sexual assault. Some believe having an orgasm under these circumstances means that it wasn't a "real" rape or the woman/man "wanted" it.
I’ve assisted many children and young women with this very issue. It is typically embarrassing and shameful to talk about. However, once it's out in the open, the survivor can look at her/his reaction honestly and begin to heal. The shame and guilt around this is a part of why rapes go unreported and why there is a need for better understanding in society for how and why this occurs. The studies and reports on physical response to molestation and rape shows numbers ranging from 5% to over 50% of survivors having this experience. That this is not an exact figure shows the need there is for more and better research.
This is not a topic often open for discussion even within the mental health community and there is concern that raising it outside the professional community will lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding (e.g., the myth of victims "enjoying rape.") It's also sadly one reason why there isn't more research done on this and similar topics. My belief is that if we can address it directly and remove the shame and stigma, then a lot more healing can happen.
I’d like to take this opportunity to Thank You, Reddit, for making this a Front Page topic last time! I’ve been informed it was one of the top Reddit discussions of all time and likely reached tens of thousands of people. I’ve since received many requests to revisit it, and that original discussion led to a number of positive outcomes, including being referenced in several articles(http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-05/science-arousal-during-rape) on the subject, assisting a university in developing a campus sexual-assault seminar and involvement in a California state court trial opinion on consent! More importantly, this information reached many people in need of it and was useful to the Reddit community and beyond. I had the opportunity to respond to dozens (hundreds maybe?) of private messages requesting help with related issues from survivors, friends and caring family members.
This is an open discussion and I'm happy to answer any questions. I will answer first-order (main thread) questions as it is really too difficult to attempt tracking threads that deviate. Depending on the number of responses, I may go back later and try to respond to side-threads that arise. Don't be afraid to think your question may be offensive, as long as it isn’t deliberately so. I'd rather have a frank talk than leave people with false ideas. So, here I am again…AMA away!