"You didn't cause this, and you can't fix it all by yourself," she says.But partners can go along to therapy sessions, if invited, as a show of support.In physical and verbal interactions, experts suggest following the lead of the partner who was abused.But Herman cautions partners against thinking that their support alone can vanquish their mates' demons.Recently, Haney flew into a jealous rage when her boyfriend took a phone call from a woman friend in her presence.Although outwardly viewing the relationship as a fling, her reaction to the phone call suggested otherwise.But others may have a sudden loss of desire, says Bette Marcus, Ph D, a Rockville, Md., psychologist.
Those abused as children also may have difficulty trusting people, including relationship partners.Not everyone who was abused as a child reacts as Haney does, preferring casual sex.But she's far from alone, according to a survey of 1,032 college students published in the November 1999 issue of the Journal of Sex Research.Haney (not her real name), is currently in therapy to help overcome what she calls her "separation" of love and sex.But three months into her current relationship, Haney continues to keep her 29-year-old boyfriend at arm's length, emotionally speaking. "But I don't want to get too close." The arrangement, however, has started to cause friction."I got upset, and he tried to talk to me about it, but I wouldn't talk about it," she says."I couldn't say what I wanted to, and he got frustrated." The impact of childhood sexual abuse on adult intimacy varies from person to person, but experts say Haney's relationship troubles are not uncommon.A sense of security may be totally absent, according to Paul Tobias, Ph D, a Los Angeles psychologist.Abuse survivors and their partners should consider counseling, whether it's with a therapist, self-help group, or religious organization, says Judith Herman, MD, a psychiatrist on the faculty at Harvard School of Medicine.And the numbers behind this dilemma are substantial.According to University of New Hampshire sociologist David Finkelhor, Ph D, an estimated 20% of women and up to 5% of men in the United States were abused sexually as children.