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Sexual trama and roughhousing

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  • Sexual trama and roughhousing

    Larry, from one of our supporters:

    Would you still recommend roughhouse with children who have been through sexual trama? Who about parents who have been through sexual trama and feel uncomfortable being touched? Would you still recommend roughhousing with them?

  • #2
    roughhousing and sexual trauma

    you have to be thoughtful and careful, but children (and adults) who have experienced sexual trauma need playful physical contact at least as much as anyone else. They need to know that there are many types of healthy touch, not just sex or aggression (or sexualized aggression). And one big area of healthy touch is roughhousing. You want to avoid sexual areas no matter what when roughhousing, and you always (with every child) want to tune in to what's overstimulating or otherwise too much. But done thoughtfully and in a tiuned-in way, roughhousing is actually extremely healing for people--children and adults--who have experienced sexual trauma. I know for myself, a survivor of sexual trauma at age 4, wrestling with adults who are thoughtful and safe has been a vital part of my healing (this has been done in a counseling context where I felt safe and secure). And children who have been traumatized in any way need to rediscover their inner power, physical, emotional, and spiritual, and I believe that roughhousing is a great avenue for this.
    You might want to keep roughhousing sessions short, you might not want to do it one on one with a child if that was the situation of their trauma, and you might make other adjustments, like letting them be the leader and the powerful one. if they grab at your genitals, in an attempt to re-enact the trauma or show you symbolically what happened to them, very gently re-direct them to safer kinds of play, the same as you would do for a child who hits once they start wrestling."let's push hands instead" is all you need to say. Take it slow, because a child might hit a sudden pocket of fear or other feelings, and you want to pause the roughhousing to listen to those feelings.
    For an adult survivor who is triggered by roughhousing with their child, be sure to have someone to talk to about this. Let your child know that you want to play but you have some games that are Ok with you and others that are not. you do not have to explain why. You are modeling self regulation when you say, "that game is too intense for me, let's play something different."