Is the People Pleaser More Susceptible to Sexual Trauma

A people-pleaser spends an exhausting amount of time worrying about everyone else’s needs, wants, and feelings. They do this to avoid conflict and the uncomfortable guilt that comes from appearing to be anything but kind. However, this behavior makes many people pleasers vulnerable to anyone that might want to take advantage of them and may make them more susceptible to sexual trauma.

Blurred Boundaries

An issue with many people-pleasers is their inability to set and maintain boundaries. People-pleasers may not know what a boundary is and, therefore, cannot communicate this. Without the ability to communicate preferences and boundaries, the chances of those boundaries being crossed are higher. This can include unwelcome sexual advances.

Easily Manipulated

The people pleaser is an easy target for people who feed off exploitation since the pleaser is reluctant to disappoint or be perceived as difficult. For this reason, people pleasers can be more easily manipulated. The person manipulating is always looking for a benefit to their actions which can come in the form of intimacy and sex. The people-pleaser may not want to engage but will do so to avoid upsetting the other party.

Misplaced Responsibilities

People Pleasers have an intense feeling of responsibility to people in their lives whether it be coworkers, family, or friends. This extreme responsibility can lead people pleasers to abandon their own physical and emotional needs to fulfill that for someone else. With sexual activities a person may feel overwhelmingly guilty or fear hurting the other person’s feelings if they don’t engage.

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Aftermath of Sexual Trauma

Once there’s been sexual abuse or trauma for any person, those experiences almost become intertwined in the pathways of the brain. I guess what I want to relay is, traumatic experiences will always resurface if they are not properly dealt with. Trauma can look like a number of psychiatric symptoms. It can present as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, anger and rage, any number of personality disorders, somatic/physical bodily symptoms, and so many others.

Seek Help and Healing

For the people pleaser and anyone that’s experienced trauma, unless you’ve reported the trauma to law enforcement, help isn’t going to fall into your lap. You must be proactive and get yourself into therapy. There are many different therapies to address traumatic experiences available to you. A good place to look to for experienced counselors and convenient online therapy is Better Help https://www.betterhelp.com/.

Sexual trauma can happen to anyone whether they exhibit traits of people pleasing or not. Unfortunately, because of behavior patterns, people pleasers can easily become a victim of this trauma.

On a Personal Note

During the 2018 supreme court confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh, I was extremely triggered. I was home a lot during this time and thought my anxious brain could handle the news. Boy was I wrong. Intrusive memories, flashbacks and uncontrollable crying spells began during this time I was watching the hearings. I would lay in bed silently sobbing with tears streaming down the sides of my face soaking my pillow.

What in the world was wrong with me, I wondered. Why couldn’t I keep it together? I had kept it together for 15 years. There was an intense need to speak this to someone. Speak what had happened to me. One day I called my husband sobbing about this horrible experience, and he listened but urged me to talk to my therapist. My therapist assured me I had every reason to feel as I did. I felt at fault for 15 years for something someone did to me. Who does that? A people-pleaser does that.

Typing this now, my eyes are a little watery, but I know I’m okay. It was important to process my experience though. Other memories have surfaced that disturb me, and I recently talked with my therapist about a short version of EMDR. I’m excited to report I did my first session about a week ago and it went great. I highly recommend.

Personal trauma is whatever you deem it to be. What one person finds traumatic, may not be traumatic for someone else. Do not compare your experiences to anyone else’s. Your life experiences form your perspective, and your perspective is all that matters when it comes to deciding what is traumatic for you.


Jenn Kemp, PMHNP, is a dedicated psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner with a personal and professional commitment to helping others overcome people-pleasing behaviors. Having navigated her own journey through these habits, Jenn combines clinical expertise with genuine empathy to guide her readers towards healthier, more authentic lives.

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