I knew I should be ashamed and, frankly, worried that my boyfriend—who I’d been with for a year and would go on to date for another three—would find out. But I was neither. Instead, I felt like I’d scratched a hard-to-reach itch. Cheating wasn’t something I took lightly, but whatever deep-seated need I’d satisfied that night was more important than fidelity. An obscure yet palpable sense of relief drove away any hint of guilt before it could take hold.

Counterintuitive as it may seem, my impulse to initiate a second encounter with my attacker more than a year after the original incident makes sense to experts on sexual assault. “Attempting to master a situation in which you previously did not have control is one way a lot of assault victims respond,” says Jim Hopper, Ph.D., teaching associate in psychology at Harvard Medical School and a nationally recognized expert on sexual assault and trauma.