Tools for Rewiring the Body for Pleasure After Domestic Abuse

Content Warning: This article has mentions of physical violence and abuse.

This is my story in words but writing is not my natural means of expression. I do this as an offering, to connect through shared experience and solidarity. Know that the experiences of domestic violence (DV) survivors can never be fully articulated this way. To disembody and reassemble yourself is hardly a choice, let alone one that can be reasoned through dictive language. We tend to seek logic with words, but this experience, to me, defies logic. The “why” and “how” I ended up in this situation will never be understood unless you yourself have stood in those shoes. I offer my story to survivors to claim as their own. I offer mantras for rooting in pleasure. I offer techniques for transcending time as means for healing the past. I offer ways to encourage an unapologetic hardwiring of pleasure in the body, one that is not liberated from memory or severed from the past but  that stands ground with that past as a means of building a stronger foundation.

Many survivors of domestic or intimate partner abuse may relate to the feeling of becoming out of touch with yourself and your intuition. You get so used to pushing down that voice that is telling you “this is wrong,” that your intuition just stops trying to warn you. A voice you were once able to hear clearly gradually becomes softer, until you can literally lie to yourself, know that you are lying, yet still somehow believe what is coming out of your mouth. It is truly fucked up. So be it the web that is abuse.

If your experience was like mine, then you were not just isolated from family and friends, but also from yourself. The healing process can be strangely multifaceted and disassociating for that reason. I was trying to heal this trauma, but also trying to find simple things that had been lost, like what made me feel happy, what gave me pleasure, and what made me feel free. How to once again experience the childlike wonder that had been ripped away from me through acts that destroyed my sense of security.

When this violence is perpetuated by someone who supposedly loves you, it confuses the developmental work that we did as children in our lower chakras1. The feeling of safety amongst those we love and those who love us becomes twisted. Our lower chakras being our foundation, our foundation is shaken. This can cause all the work that has been built on top of that seemingly stable foundation to crumble along with it. You are left to pick up so. many. pieces.

The thing about suppressing your intuition in your physical body is that those warnings and stressors don’t just go away and that toxicity will start to manifest itself in other ways. For me it manifested in anxiety attacks, weight loss, hair loss, hormonal imbalances, ovarian cysts, and other health problems for years after. I was doing and saying things I didn’t recognize and lying to my friends and family. Spiritually, I had completely lost touch with myself.

At first I was angry that it felt like two years of my life were taken from me and replaced with trauma and fear. I was angry that when I went to seek help and therapy resources from an institution I trusted, I was denied access to their services. In fact, because of this rejection, I didn’t even attempt to get help until two and a half years after I was violently attacked by someone who supposedly loved me. At first I pushed it down, and thought that I could move on with my regular life2.  But then I woke up one day (quite literally, two years later) realizing how many walls I had up, realizing I actually wasn’t fucking okay, realizing I trusted no one and lacked compassion for my friends. I was full of resentment3.

However, this was the journey of my healing and I wouldn’t change that. As a Cancer sun, Cancer Venus, and Cancer descendant, I am deeply rooted in my nurturing ways. I give, I try to fix, and I want to do so with the people I love. For a long time I did not have appropriate boundaries within my relationships. After this relationship ended, I was angry at myself for being this way, so for a while I tried to do the opposite and have all of my walls up as a means of reclaiming my agency. I had to understand what it felt like to say no and to reject, but after a while I realized that if I wanted to have healthy relationships I had to release this defensive front, and find balance in how I approached my interactions.

It was during this time that I learned to speak up for what I deserved. I remember a specific one night stand where someone (in a very disrespectful and condescending tone) told me that he didn’t really eat pussy, but of course expected me to be concerned about his pleasure. I kicked him out of my bed and called him a car home. This is when I realized I had the power to advocate for my own pleasure, and that I deserved to do so.

Healing will be different for everyone, but I respond heavily to energetic work. I did a lot of reiki, meditation, plant medicine work, journaling, and really dedicated myself to this type of practice for a while. During this time I practiced forgiveness as a means of releasing resentment from my body. The thing about resentment is that it festers and it is an energetic way for someone to retain control over your body, your experiences, and your psyche. I know the person who did this to me is not really deserving of my forgiveness, but it is important to know that forgiveness is not for the person who abused you, it is for YOU. It is so you can release the hold that the experience still has on you. It is so you can begin to release the darkness of the trauma and teach your muscles new feelings, like pleasure, ecstasy, bliss, and joy. I never once communicated with that former partner that I “forgave” him and I didn’t need to.

Once I did that, I saw him as a golden light, and then every dark area that was left inside of me from his abuse filled with golden light, while he rose up out of my body and shot down a tunnel, physically leaving the space. It was the most intense release I have ever experienced.


An Exercise For Releasing Resentment:

The more attention you put towards an intention, the stronger it becomes. Setting the space for this as a ritual may help the energetic work come through stronger. Do whatever resonates for you.

  1. Think about someone who you feel resentment towards.
  2. Write down three negative things about them or about the way they treated you.
  3. Now, imagine them through a different lens – think about them in the way someone who loves them unconditionally, thinks about them, such as their mother or another family member.
  4. Write down 3 positive things about that person, perhaps what this person who loves them would say about them.
  5. After writing this, close your eyes and try to sense the areas in the body where this person still has a hold on you. Find the dark corners where their violence lingers, where the resentment still lays. Bring your attention to these areas.
  6. Now imagine the person, picture them in your mind, and imagine their silhouette filling up with a pure golden light, no darkness shrouds this person, they are pure gold, you see them and no negative feelings arise. You cannot see any of the dark because they are so engulfed in light.
  7. Now bring your attention back to all those dark corners in the body, and imagine all of these places filling in with that pure golden light. 
  8. Visualize the golden rays powerfully shoot out of your body. 
  9. See what happens next, but perhaps you can visualize that person leaving your body, their holds coming off, and their body shooting down a tunnel, completely away from you, and into an abyss.

It wasn’t until this physical release happened that I was able to pursue other areas of healing and address my physical health. Trauma truly holds itself in the body and muscular memory, and it is important to bring this back into alignment, but I also acknowledge that it is an ongoing process and that I will be healing this on a psychological level my entire life.


Rewriting Trauma With BDSM:

This trauma surfaces at inconvenient times, it lurks in situations and moments that I had no idea it would show up in. It is a constant teacher. When it shows up I am reminded to be compassionate towards myself and always, always rooted in pleasure.

Each stage of healing that I have engaged with has allowed me to work on other areas of myself as well, and grow as a person as a result. I could not always speak about this soberly. I did not always want to share what happened to me.

As my healing journey evolves, I am now able to confront my triggers in different ways, and I am more equipped to face the layers that exist within that. For example, I have been exploring rope and bondage play (shibari) with a partner.

One night as they were tying me up, the feeling of being restricted launched me right back into the specific traumatic night mentioned above. I would call this a trigger, but instead of stopping the experience, I wanted it to keep going4. My partner could tell my energy shifted and asked if I was ok. I informed them that I was about to do some potentially deep shadow work and asked if they consented to be in that space with me. They agreed and I asked them to continue5.

I was launched back into my trauma from these feelings of restriction, helplessness, and lack of control. The physical feeling of being pinned down and not being able to move was something I experienced several times with this abusive partner, but also the same feeling on the mental level, feeling trapped and manipulated.

The reason I wanted to continue with the tying up is because I recognized this as an opportunity to rewrite this trauma in my body. I realized that I could choose to reclaim and rename what is triggering me to redefine my relationship to certain acts and remove some of the hooks that were left there from the past. It was entirely different to derive pleasure from these experiences when they were formerly so linked with abuse.

This practice with bondage helped me to break down my traumatic experience because I began to associate it with the raw states of emotions that were triggered by that event. It was useful for me to associate my trauma with more general feelings or physical sensations, because these are the feelings that cause triggers at inconvenient times. These are also the feelings your body will use as cues to let you know that you are not safe.

I was able to break down my trauma into these raw states:

Powerlessness

Helplessness (in a childlike way)

Feeling trapped

Feeling dominated without consent


I realized that when the feelings above surface, it is easy to spiral right back into my trauma. Using BDSM to associate these feelings with pleasure can help to rewrite your muscle memory and associations with these emotions, and hopefully, help you have a lower stress response. When you have survived abuse, often your body will tell you it’s unsafe when it’s really not. Letting the body know it is safe to feel these things is important, so you are not launched into flight-or-flight at inappropriate times. Stressful situations can activate a cascade of stress hormones that produce well-orchestrated physical and physiological changes. This is the reason why chronic stress has long term effects on physical and mental health.

It is important to have compassion with ourselves and not feel shame when we get triggered. Biology tells us that if you have survived trauma, your parasympathetic nervous system WILL get triggered and tell you that you are unsafe. It is not your fault, and you are worthy and equipped to reclaim your body in safety. 

For me it has been useful to put myself back into these traumatic memories6. Remembering specific feelings such as helplessness or entrapment allows me to examine how and when these feelings are popping up in my life currently and how their associations are holding me back. 

As a result, I began to trust myself more. I trust myself to know the difference between when my body is saying yes and when it is saying no. I had to learn to have faith that I would never put myself in that situation again. And only when I began to trust myself could I put trust in another. A BDSM scenario encourages communication and compassion, and builds tools for trust in healthy relationships outside of the bedroom. This is why there is power in doing this work with a partner, if your healing process allows for it. I also want to note that appropriate aftercare is always important in BDSM, but in this particular situation where I was launched back into a traumatic memory and had a huge release, it was extra important. That is also why I encourage only engaging in this work with a partner who you trust and have good communication with. 

Be mindful that every time trauma surfaces, your body may continue to do this purging work for days after, so take care of yourself in the days following. It is a potent time to do other healing work, even if it’s just journaling or centering yourself with a 5 minute meditation when you wake up.

I now know what pleasure can be, and when I feel it I can rewrite what my body knows. I was able to immerse myself in this experience, not be scared of it, and decide that it means something else for me. I am working on rewriting my correlations, my patterns, and muscle memory to feel and crave pleasure again, perhaps it is better described as a reset. 


A Meditation For Rooting In Pleasure:

This is useful as a repeated spoken or written meditation, or you can utilize certain lines as mantra.

I make room for my body to feel pleasure wherever and whenever it wants

in my pleasure I am my own decider
rooted in my pleasure, I cannot demand less than
rooted in pleasure, it arises everywhere, with every sense, and with every small
sniff or bite or scratch on my skin
rooted in pleasure, that is all I am allowed to feel

The frequency of pleasure blocks resentment and hate

rooted in pleasure, I can tell my body, it is ok to feel good

I can liberate my muscles from remembering only the pain

rooted in pleasure, I am my own captain
rooted in pleasure, my worth aligns with my value
rooted in pleasure, I am worthy


Short Mantras to Repeat for Rooting Down in Your Pleasure When You Are Triggered:

I am safe here

I make room for my body to feel pleasure wherever and whenever it wants

My personal power is easily accessible

I have a limitless capacity for pleasure


Reclaiming Pleasure with Chakrubs:

Working with Chakrubs has been a divine piece of my healing journey. This is when I began to understand the pleasure I was truly worthy of. Slowing down to be intimate and intentional with your pleasure, really shows you that you can find it everywhere. Expanding your definitions of pleasure opens the doors for healing. It is what has allowed me to embrace my sexuality, my queerness, my shadows, my kinkiness, my freakiness. Now, instead of having walls up, pleasure has become my armor.

Crystals can help transcend time, making Chakrubs amazing partners for time travel. The stones are as old as time, they hold memory, they can give you downloads and receive them as well. They make excellent talismans for infusing intentions. Giving your intention a manifestation on the physical plane in the form of any object gives power to it and begins the manifestation process. Having something as a physical symbol of your intention gives it weight and accountability. Combining this intention with orgasmic energy is an amazing tool for healing.

Going off the concept that time is not linear, I use Chakrubs to heal parts of my past or future. I have a practice with my Chakrubs where I make love to my 20-21 year old self who needed self-love at that time, so that version of myself can feel worthy of pleasure. I show her what it feels like to love herself. To not be scared of her own power. To demand goodness and to release shame. This has proved to be very potent for me.


Guide on Making Love to Your Former Self With Chakrubs:

  1. Get into a cozy space with your Chakrub. Maybe lay down and place it on your chest or under your thigh to warm up. I also like having a piece of rose quartz nearby as a reminder for unconditional and non-judgemental self-love.
  2. Imagine yourself at a former age in which you were not rooted in pleasure. Maybe this is during the time you were experiencing abuse, or did not love yourself or know how to advocate for your pleasure.
  3. Begin to rub your hands along your chest, torso, and sacral area, delivering a soothing and safe touch, while also seducing your former self. Try to feel comforted and protected in your own hands. Perhaps you visualize cradling your former self in your arms.
  4. Proceed to masturbate and use the Chakrub however feels good to you, focusing on making love to yourself. Try not to bring in any outside stimuli or fantasy into your mind, but whatever arises is worth noticing.
  5. Sometimes, messages will come through and a mantra may surface that you want to use. Repeat this mantra when you are in the depths of self pleasure or climaxing, delivering that message to your younger self. If nothing comes up, simply use: It is safe to feel pleasure.
  6. After finishing, place the Chakrub on your chest or wherever feels right and focus on infusing this self love into your past, present, and future. Perhaps you hold on to the rose quartz and visualize yourself at all stages in life being engulfed in a pink bubble of love. 


It took me two years to leave my abuser and five years before I was able to speak openly about my experiences with DV. Still, I recognize that I am more privileged than many survivors of DV who are financially dependent on their abusers, who are systematically ignored and dismissed because of their ethnic background, immigrant status, gender identity, and so many other factors. If we truly want to reduce and eventually eliminate DV, we must recognize that all of our stories deserve to be told and heard.

Healing something like this is never a quick fix and there are a variety of different ways to explore your individual healing process. While Chakrubs and BDSM can act as tools for release and healing, they are not the only tools.

  1. I am speaking directly from my experience with intimate partner abuse that happened in my young adult years. Those who have experienced childhood traumas experience a whole slew of different developmental blocks in these lower chakras. 
  2. Important to note this as reason why a lot of survivors may not come forward or report their abuse right away. Besides it often being unsafe to do so, in abusive relationships you are deeply entangled in a web of manipulation (not different from brainwashing). The realization that I should have reported it did not appear itself until much much later, long after the bruises had worn off. At that point I had no trust in the system meant to protect me, assuming it would only cause me more trauma and pain. Feeling invalidated by coming forth so many months later, I skipped this altogether. I only realized much later how profoundly disrupting this experience had been, and how I wish I would have at least come forward to protect it from happening to more people after me.
  3. I also recognize the privilege I had in being able to leave my abusive relationship safely. I wasn’t tied to this person domestically through money, shared offspring, or the strains of poverty, etc. Although there are many other valid reasons why someone would be resistant to leaving a violent situation, it often makes it harder to when you feel trapped by not only emotional manipulation and violence, but your basic needs (and potentially those of your children) are also entangled with this person’s presence, and perhaps their role is provider of these basic needs. 
  4. Trauma comes up at inconvenient or unexpected times and it’s important for us to recognize that it’s always our choice in how we want to move forward. Sometimes it’s appropriate to stop everything, to distract yourself, to cuddle instead. There is no shame in needing to stop and process what you are feeling without being thrust back into the traumatic scenario.
  5. Shadow work is not to be taken lightly. Especially if you are engaging with a partner, they should be aware of what they are engaging in, so they can be hyper-sensitive to anything that may come up in your body, and so that they can be prepared to stop at anytime. For example, if you are practicing shibari, you should have a pair of scissors or shears nearby so you can cut your partner out of the rope if they quickly need to be released from the tie. Communication is key here. It also should be noted that you should not practice shibari without understanding proper safety practices and acknowledging and understanding its cultural significance and history. 
  6. Note that trauma can cause memory loss. If the details of your traumatic event are not accessible to you, perhaps you can remember the general space you were in mentally and emotionally during this time in your life, and perhaps what your relationship to pleasure was at that time.


If you are a survivor or current victim of Domestic Abuse, please see the resources below. 

List of hotlines and other resources:

Greatist: Resources for Sexual Assault and Domestic Abuse Survivors Who Aren’t Sure Where to Turn

Forge: Guide for Survivors

Loveisrespect.org

Rest for Resistance

Day One NY

Author: Jenny Sotelo
About: Jenny Sotelo (she/her) is a designer and dancer residing in Los Angeles and has been Chakrubs' Creative Director since 2017. She also holds her RYT Yoga Teacher training certificate and Reiki II certification. She currently works remotely for Chakrubs and also participates in various performance art opportunities and holds guided meditations around Los Angeles.
%d bloggers like this: