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"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.
She admits she is more comfortable with casual flings, partly because the closer she gets to a man emotionally, the less she wants to have sex with him.But others may have a sudden loss of desire, says Bette Marcus, Ph D, a Rockville, Md., psychologist.She recalls a patient who, two years into her marriage, began having flashbacks of sexual assaults at the hands of her stepfather."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.Marcus said the memories made it difficult for the patient to continue having sex with her husband, and although she underwent therapy, the marriage ultimately ended in divorce.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.As for Haney, she plans to continue with therapy until she is able to combine physical and emotional intimacy. "I am pretty determined when I set my mind to something," she says. I don't want what happened to beat me." Stephen Gregory has been a journalist for 10 years and has worked for such publications as The Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and U.