Women who are survivors of sexual abuse and trauma may be especially upset when they discover their partner’s involvement with porn. The ex­perience can re-traumatize them because the way people are treated and the way sex is approached in porn can look similar to the dynamics of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Fran, a thirty-seven-year-old survivor of sexual abuse, had told her boyfriend, David, about her sensitivity to porn early in their relation­ship, and he had assured her he had given porn up for good before they started dating. Thus, it came as a huge shock one night when Fran acci­dentally found an Internet porn site saved on David’s laptop. “I stupidly clicked on it, thinking that maybe I was wrong, and it wasn’t really porn,”

Fran said. “It was. I quickly closed the link, feeling numb and shocked. I scrolled down further and saw another link, this one to teen porn. It devastated me, especially because I had been sexually abused as a teen by men who used pornography and David knew that.

“I was shocked that David was into porn and deeply ashamed for having believed he had stopped. I felt like a fool, utterly devastated. I needed him emotionally, yet I knew I couldn’t stay with him. I couldn’t think straight and had no idea what to do. I felt dirty and violated like I had when I was abused. I hated him for doing this to me, particularly when he knew so much about my past. I felt lost, confused, dependent, vulnerable, and scared, as well as incredibly hostile, bitter, and full of rage. It helped that he stayed with me that night and accepted my reactions. But given how I continue to feel, I’m just not sure I can stay with him.”