Q&A with Dr. Torrisi about sexual abuse

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Dr. Torrisi was recently approached by Daianara at the Hunter College Silberman School of Social work about the ways LIIST works with clients who have experienced sexual traumas. Here’s a peek at their Q&A.

  1. How often are you referred clients from non-profit agencies that serve sexual trauma survivors?

– Many clients find me via referrals from allied professionals. Sometimes I am referred a client from the pelvic physical therapists at Northwell Hospital. I am also a recommended therapist by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), Stony Brook Hospital Midwives Program, and the Long Island LGBT Network.

  1. What does co-therapy with survivors of sexual trauma look like?

– If you mean therapy with other allied professionals, that looks like regular phone calls between us; informing each other of what is going on and how we can best support the needs of our shared client. Sometimes I even meet other providers in their offices, and we share a cup of coffee while discussing a shared client. If you mean therapy with a co-survivor, such as a partner of someone who has gone through a traumatic sexual experience, that often looks like educating the partner or family member and working on enhancing a safe attachment.

  1. What is a rough percentage of the clients you see that have a sexual trauma history? How many of them experience difficulties with sexual functioning and/or difficulties with pleasure?

– I would say a majority of my clients have experienced sexual trauma. Just think about the statistics on this alone! (Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.) You can see more data about sexual abuse on RAINN’s website. About one in eight of my clients seek therapy with me to directly to address their sexual abuse history. Many experience sexual difficulties such as hypo-sexuality and anorgasmia. There is an excellent article by a colleague of mine, Agnes Whol, that was just published about therapy treatments that have proven success rates for sexual abuse survivors. You can read that article here.

  1. In your experience, has addressing sexuality in a positive manner with sexual trauma survivors been a healing experience for them?

– Most people come to my office because they are seeking a therapist and a therapeutic experience that will assist them in healing from their trauma(s). A happy sex life is often one of the more empowering ways of taking back the reigns from a perpetrator.

  1. Do you believe Sex Therapy is accessible for individuals in lower income brackets?

– Great question. Sex therapy is often difficult for those with lower incomes to afford. In general, insurance does not adequately provide payments to therapists. For a specialist like a sex therapist, not being appropriately compensated is just not possible. Luckily, at LIIST, we have a sliding scale and an intern with whom sessions are quite reduced. Each of the staff therapists at LIIST, see at least one client per day with a significantly reduced fee.

  1. Have any of your clients, who are sexual trauma survivors, engaged in consensual BDSM and kink? What has been their experience with this type of sex play?

– You have to be careful about these associations. Kink and sexual trauma do not overlap as some might think. For some people with sexual abuse histories, engaging in consensual boundary play can be empowering. This is not something I recommend off the bat. For anyone interested in kink, I always encourage them to join FetLife and to seek out the respected community members for the types of play they are looking to enjoy.

  1. How would you suggest non-profit agencies to integrate a Sex-Positive framework within their work with their clients?

– Hire an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist on staff. Host regular sex-positive trainings by AASECT Certified Sexuality Educators. Find one through AASECT’s directory listings here.