Coercive Sexual Abuse
Rather than using physical force, the abuser will frequently use coercive sexual abuse.
He will use guilt, pity, anger, moods, nagging or accusations to 'persuade' us. He does not see this as sexual abuse, but it is. Any sexual act that has been coerced is abusive.
Coercive sexual abuse is difficult to establish, or even to admit to oneself. Were we sexually assaulted or did we agree to it? The abuser can simply say that we did (finally) agree to sexual intercourse, after a little persuasion, or once our 'bad mood' had departed. But we can left feeling confused, dirty, betrayed and assaulted. We do not know whether to report it. Surely the first question the police will ask was whether there was force used, or violence threatened? In most cases we prefer to 'forget' the matter and hope it doesn't happen again - but chances are it will, as once the abuser has found that coercive sexual abuse works without any obvious repercussions on him, why stop?
He will want sex after an argument to 'prove' that we have forgiven him and are willing to 'make up'. Or after we have agreed to give the relationship another go to 'prove' that we still love him. He will coerce us by making us feel guilty about not wanting intercourse or by saying that if we really loved him, we would show him this by agreeing to the sexual act. He will make us feel sorry for him by becoming upset or telling us his previous partner kept withholding sex and it brings back bad memories for him. He will say that women always use sex against men, he thought we were different from other women so we agree to prove that we are different and so that he is not disappointed in us.
He will nag us for sex, or get in a foul mood or angry and generally be unpleasant and disruptive until we concede. He will just go on and on and not allow us to get any rest or sleep until we have agreed to intercourse. Or he will accuse us of cheating on him and that being our real reason for not wanting sex with him. We can't just have headache or be genuinely tired!
Coercive sexual abuse does not give up so easily, it just changes track a little until it finally works - usually by running the victim out of 'polite' ways or even reasonable ways of simply getting rid of him.
These are all examples of using coercion to persuade us to comply with his sexual demands despite our really not wanting to. He simply does not accept that we have the right to refuse him.
"The treatment I received for not wanting to give him oral sex was the same if I forgot to buy a loaf of bread - he would get angry, hit me, call me names, then shut himself in the bedroom each night. It would usually be 3-5 days before he spoke to me again, usually in time to take him to the pub at the weekend." (Amelia)
"I would get home late from working the night shift and he would be waiting for me and want sex. I was exhausted, but if I said no, he would get in a 'mood' and sulk. Or wank off in bed beside me, keeping me awake and making me feel guilty for saying no. Often I would let him do it just so that I could get some sleep." (Anon)
He will use coercive sexual abuse to have intercourse when we are tired or ill. Or he will start to have sex with us when we are asleep, purposely get us drunk or spike our drinks with drugs so that we are not fully aware of what is happening. He will pressure us for sex far too soon after we have given birth, had an abortion or some other form of surgery; before we have even have a chance to heal physically.
"The day after I'd had the abortion was the first time he raped me."(Emma)
The coercion need not be subtle though.
Some of us have been beaten up for refusing to have sex. Where this has happened we simply don't dare to say no because we know the consequences. Our partner does not even need to threaten violence - we have learned from experience.
"At any time, I was never permitted to say no. Strenuous refusal met with beatings." (Rachel)
We should not allow ourselves to be conned into believing that coercive sexual abuse is not 'real' abuse, simply because force or violence is not used during the sex act itself. Using emotional, psychological or verbal abuse to gain sexual favours are all forms of coercive sexual abuse.
Coercive Sexual Abuse after Assault
Some men will physically assault or beat us up, then suddenly turn very loving and turned on and want to have sex with us. In part this is to prove that we have forgiven him, but largely it is designed to confuse us. One moment he is cruel, nasty and violent, inflicting pain on us and terrifying us, the next he is loving and attentive. Part of us hopes that the 'nice' partner has returned, that the previous violent one was not really who he is.
The same person causing us pain and then 'making love' to us can also cause a subconscious link between pain and love, so that part of us starts believing we cannot have one without the other.
"When I did make up with him he would make me have sex to 'prove' I had forgiven him, which was horrible, lying underneath him, my body still aching. I think it must have turned him on the suffering he caused." (Freya)
Other abusers will physically assault or beat us up and then force or demand sex to prove that we have forgiven them or to prove that we love them. This is really a continuation of the physical abuse we have just suffered; there is not even the suggestion that we have any say in the matter, and freedom to say no. It is degrading.
"I can remember one time when he forced me to have sex after a beating, lying under him, bruised, crying and utterly desperate." (MP)
When we are forced or coerced into having sex after an assault or after 'making up' following a beating, this is a double abuse or both our bodies and our spirits.
Becoming his dream girl
When the Internet came around
Crazy and inane to me
When he wanted more and more
When I became his fantasy of ...
I tried to please, to meet his needs
I played the madam he loved so much
In This Section:
Lundy Bancroft has written what is probably the most comprehensive and readable book on domestic violence, the beliefs of the abuser and the dynamics of abuse. This truly is a MUST READ for anyone seriously trying to understand domestic abuse and how to cope with an abusive relationship:
To order in the US: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
To order in the UK: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Real Rape, Real Pain explores though the eyes and feelings the actual impact of marital and imtiate sexual abuse and marital rape. A must read for anyone who has experienced this intrusive and long-lasting form of intimate violence. The book does not just describe and explain, but also helps set us on the road to healing:
To order in the US: Real Rape, Real Pain: Help for women sexually assaulted by male partners
To order in the UK: Real Rape, Real Pain: Help for Women Sexually Assaulted by Male Partners
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