What "Please Don't Touch Me" Means to a Trauma Survivor

“Please don’t touch me.”

This is a phrase I find myself thinking frequently.

I don’t say it much anymore. Mostly because people have made me feel bad about it.

They’ve made me feel bad for having boundaries about my body. But it should be completely reasonable for me to be the one who controls my body and my personal space.

Sometimes, people treat it as a joke. I ask them not to touch me and suddenly they’re laughing and poking me. “Like that?”

Yes. Like that. And it isn’t funny.

When I ask someone not to touch me, it isn’t anything personal and yet… most take it that way.

Sometimes they treat me like I’m a child and they tell me to quit being ridiculous.

More often than not, I’ve been told, “I’m not hurting you.”

When you continue to touch me, despite my asking you not to, it doesn’t matter how “harmless” it is. I have to fight with everything I have to resist a panic attack. I’m very aware you’re not hurting me but you need to understand that there was a time when I told someone to stop and they didn’t. There was a time when I begged someone to get their hands off of me and they didn’t. I told them no and they still thought they had the right.

I’m a sexual assault survivor. I’m also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It’s taken me a long time to find my voice to express these boundaries.

Trust me when I tell you that I feel guilty when I ask someone not to touch me. I shouldn’t have to, but I do.

I try to force myself to stay quiet. I make myself uncomfortable trying to protect someone else’s feelings. That should not be the way it is.

If I ask you not to touch me… It isn’t personal. It isn’t a joke. I’m not being rude. I’m setting a boundary which is something I’ve struggled to do. Please respect it.

Consent is about more than just sex. People have a right to control their own body and decide who is allowed to touch them, when, and how. When we teach people that consent is unnecessary for touching, we set the base that can lead to a lack of respect for consent in other acts. When we teach people that they don’t have a right to refuse to consent to touching, we set the stage for trauma.

There are many reasons a person may not want to be touched. I should also note that someone does not have to have trauma to not want to be touched! It doesn’t matter what their reasons are. If they ask you not to touch them, please let them have their voice and the respect they deserve. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a reassuring pat, hug or gentle poke. Please, don’t touch them.


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