Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence and Marital Rape
Sexual abuse can be defined as any sexual encounter without consent and includes any unwanted touching, forced sexual activity, be it oral, anal or vaginal, forcing the victim to perform sexual acts, painful or degrading acts during intercourse (e.g. urinating on victim), and exploitation through photography or prostitution.
The abuser my use violence to rape his partner (this is most common where physical violence is also current) or he may use only enough force to control his partner's movements (known as 'force-only rape'). Coercion or manipulation in the form of threats, emotional or psychological abuse may also be used, leaving the victim to submit to unwanted sexual acts out of fear or guilt. The abuser may, for instance, imply that should she not submit, he will hit her, leave her and find 'another woman', withdraw the housekeeping, or punish her in some other way. Or the abuser may insist on sex following a physical attack for the victim to 'prove' he has forgiven her. Whatever form of coercion is used, be it physical, financial or emotional, any sexual act which is not based on mutual consent constitutes sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse can involve any of the following:
The less overt forms of sexual abuse are described more fully in Subtle Sexual Abuse, together with the warning signs that sexual abuse may occur in a relationship.
When intercourse or other forms of sexual behaviour is forced through violence, it seems quite obvious to all that rape or sexual assault has taken place. Where violence or excessive force is not a feature though, the lines become a little more blurred. The concept of sex or sexual behaviour being coerced rather than forced is considered in more depth in coercive sexual abuse.
For an example of how an abusive relationship can turn into forced prostitution, see Evie's Story.
When sexual abuse occurs within marriage, the victim will often feel very confused as to whether or not she has been 'raped'. It seems obvious to all (general public, law enforcement agencies, religious leaders, etc.) that when a woman (or man) is raped out on the street by a stranger, that rape has occurred and is wrong. When rape occurs within the marriage, neither abuser nor victim may consider it legal rape. This is partially due to the general acceptance of the Christian tradition within our culture which tells us that it is the wife's duty to fulfil her husband's sexual demands.
Many women (both religious and non-religious) don't believe they have the right to refuse sex, that 'sex on demand' is an unwritten part of the marriage contract. When they have been raped by their husband, they are inclined to take responsibility for the abuse, furthering the feelings of guilt and lack of self-worth. This blame-taking is further increased by the abuser's justifications, e.g. 'it is your fault for saying no ...'.
When no actual physical violence was used (i.e. coercion or force-only ) many abusers will deny that rape has actually occurred and treat the abuse as though it was normal and by joint consent. This has the effect of further confusing the victim as to the reality of her experience.
Marriage, however, is a contract based on mutual love, respect and consideration. Each party has a right to their own body, and while consideration for each person's sexual needs is normal, forced sexual acts are not an expression of love, but a purposeful betrayal of the respect and trust which form a solid marriage.
See Marital Rape for more information.
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
Living with the Dominator by Pat Craven is the book to accompany the Freedom Programme in the UK. This book should be compulsory in schools - the information is so clear and so obvious and such an eye-opener! After studying domestic violence issues for years, this is the one book which finally enabled me to click it all into place and answer all my whys. Just read it:
To order in the US: Living With the Dominator (Kindle version only - and well worth buying a Kindle just to get this book!)
To order in the UK: Living with the Dominator: A Book About the Freedom Programme: 1
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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