Vulva – Healing the Physical Effects of Childhood Sexual Assault – Physical Self Care

This post is chock full of triggers. No descriptions of actual abuse, but lots about injured vaginas and what works to make them feel better.  A little bit of religious triggers if reading about Pagan stuff triggers you. Read at your own risk.


I have one messed up vagina. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. Actually spiritually it is probably healthier than most, after 20 years of being an active member of a religion where the vulva is literally a core sacred symbol. That was the most right and healing thing I’ve ever done as a survivor and a woman, to actively choose to align my spirituality with viewing my sexuality and my female body as sacred.

As you may know if you read this blog the physical effects are pretty severe. When I was raped as a very young child, my vagina tore badly. So badly that it still has scarring, which is unusual. Vulvae normally heal from even very severe wounds without scars, apparently, but mine was injured deep enough or repeatedly enough to scar and to have loose tags of torn tissue. Lucky me. Actually, seeing the scars a few years ago helped me prove that my mother was complicit in the abuse, literally an accessory after the fact, and gave me clear justification to disown her.

This, likewise is a drawing of an adult woman's vulva showing the names for all the parts and which ones usually get injured in sexual assault. Now you know what all your lady bits are are called.
This, likewise is a drawing of an adult woman’s vulva showing the names for all the parts and which ones usually get injured in sexual assault. Now you know what all your lady bits are are called.

About a year ago, I got a diagnosis for the chronic pain and itching I’ve been experiencing my whole life around my vagina opening and my vulva. The gynecologist did a biopsy and found that the tissue to the posterior side of my vaginal opening is chronically inflamed. The words “It’s definitely not in your head” were used, always a good thing for a survivor to hear, especially when I’d been told basically that by another practitioner.  She prescribed me really strong cortisone ointment and sent me on my way. While the ointment does bring down the inflammation, I haven’t quite figured out how to manage it so that it stays gone.

Here’s what I’ve researched so far and what seems to be worth doing for me:

  1. Using a mirror daily (when I remember) to check my vulva for redness and take action if necessary. I’ve gotten so used to ignoring the discomfort, that a visual check is helpful. When not inflamed, my vulva simmers down to a dark pink instead of a dark red. The area in the image on this page that is red is where the worst of my inflammation and torn tags is, which  makes sense because that’s where the worst of the tearing usually is in a rape.
  2. Taking turmeric capsules. I get empty gel capsules and fill them with the spice turmeric, which has scientifically verified anti-inflammatory properties. There are no side effects. It’s food. I take 1-3 a day.
  3. Putting petroleum jelly (vaseline) on my vulva daily to keep it moist and keep it from getting irritated by rubbing on clothes and stuff.  I’ve also used coconut oil, which is nice, but it apparently is ‘comodogenic’ which means it causes pimples. I don’t want a pimple on my vulva, thanks. Cocoa butter would probably also work. The problem with all of these is that they break down latex gloves or condoms, so make sure you gently wipe off the jelly or oil with a soft damp cloth before using any of these.
  4. Ice packs. Those gel packs you put in the freezer are wonderful for an inflamed vulva. I wrap them in a tea towel and put one in my panties or sit on it. Really helps when the pain is bad.
  5. A squeeze bottle of water to rinse after peeing. Especially in the morning, when urine is concentrated, the urine can burn the sensitive sore skin. The vaseline seems to help with this.
  6. Boric acid capsules. Using the same empty gel capsules, fill them with pharmaceutical grade powdered boric acid from a drug store, the kind that might be sold as eyewash. Put one in your vagina every day for a few weeks if you have a chronic vaginal infection. Shorter if you rarely have infections or it seems to clear it up faster. This is also science based and works for both yeast infections and other types of vaginal infections by changing the pH of your vagina to make it acidic and unfriendly to the bad bacteria.
  7. The ‘legs up the wall’ yoga pose which increases blood flow to the pelvis. This seems to help with the pain sometimes.
  8. Sexual positions for penetrative sex that don’t irritate the red area are purportedly the ‘woman on top’ position and ‘from behind’ position. I have had sex in these positions (no, I’m not going to explain how this works for lesbians 😉 ) and I do seem to recall it being better.

The above  is all very important on a physical level, but there’s a whole other level of healing I’m embarking on now. I’m doing Tantric yoni (vulva/vagina) massage, on myself and with my wife. This is basically massaging the inside and outside of the vagina/vulva in a structured way while being very present and breathing in a special way that opens you up.  I know this will sound terrifying to lots of survivors. It’s probably a good way to bring up an unmanageable amount of flashbacks, but that hasn’t happened for at least a decade, and if it does, I am ready. So far as a recipient it’s been about crying my heart out and releasing a lot of pain and stored gunk. No night terrors or new memories thank the Goddess. I’m good with crying, and I can feel it clearing already. I’m ready for it and I’m glad to be doing it. For those of you who have female partners who are not survivors, they will like it a lot. You should try it.

My wife is being a good sport about performing the yoni massage on me, because it’s certainly not sexy with me emoting hard the whole time. I am grateful to have someone who loves me helping me heal this. It’s not something I could go to a massage therapist with. My hope/plan is that doing this regularly will clear out the emotional trauma gunk from the assaults stored in my vagina and vulva which may help it be less inflamed, or at least help me have more sensation and comfort in the relatively undamaged areas of my vulva. I enjoy sex, but it’s a pain (no pun intended) that my injury makes it complicated.  I will keep you posted on whether this works, and if so, will post a primer for survivors on how to do it and what I learned.

If you have a vaginal/vulval injury and have tried these or any other things that work, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 

Help for Partners of Childhood Sexual Assault Survivors

I had a comment just now asking for resources for partners. I am a survivor and have been involved with women who are survivors. I think that most of this will be applicable to partners of survivors of all genders.

Partners will find these posts particularly useful:

Coming out as a survivor part 3 – Intimate Relationships with Bystanders and Civilians

Source: US Army

The story I wrote about in my last post, where I’d come out to a potential lover as having an injured vagina and she’d reacted in an odd way, has been puzzling me. What was it about that which was so triggering?

I figured it out when I was trying to write her an email to explain why I couldn’t be her lover, despite some flirting and making out we’d done. Continue reading Coming out as a survivor part 3 – Intimate Relationships with Bystanders and Civilians

Coming Out as a Survivor Part 2 – Friends and Lovers

In my previous post on this topic, I covered coming out to yourself, your therapist and your support or therapy community. The final two really difficult steps are coming out to friends and lovers (level one and two) and coming out to or confronting your family. The family piece might come before the friend piece, so these are not necessarily the order in which they are done, but perhaps are the order of complexity and potential for pain.

Continue reading Coming Out as a Survivor Part 2 – Friends and Lovers