Intimate Partner Abuse

My abuser is my partner...

If you have experienced forced or coerced sexual contact by a partner or date, you are not alone.

Studies have shown that approximately 22% of reported rapes were committed by husbands or boyfriends, 47% by acquaintances, and 2% by other relatives. (criminal Victimization in 1999. US DOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics.)

Sexual assaults are often a part of a larger pattern of the abuser using tactics of power and control-domestic abuse.

Studies of women seeking shelter from abusive partners found that 33-75% of those surveyed experienced sexual assaults by those abusive partners.

Sexual abuse in a relationship must be understood in the context of emotional (and possibly physical) abuse.

While society sometimes perpetuates the myth that women are the property of their male partners, or that it's a woman's "duty" to provide sex to her partner, the emotional reality is that- Rape is Rape.

Being sexually assaulted or coerced to have sex that you don't want is a very personal and intimately traumatic experience. There are differences between stranger and intimate rape:

Stranger assault is with someone whom you don't know and don't share any experiences or history. When the assault happens, there can be no doubt as to what is happening: it is sexual assault.

In Intimate Partner Sexual Assault, it is a physical and sexual violation and a huge betrayal of trust. The person assaulting you is a person whom you thought you knew intimately, and with whom you share a history and possibly a home and/or children. This is a person whom you have made love to, wants the best for you, and who would never intentionally hurt you. Intimate partner sexual assault is so destructive because it betrays the fundamental basis of the relationship, calling into question everything you thought you knew about your partner, the relationship, and even yourself. You end up feeling betrayed, humiliated and very confused.

Sexual assault within a relationship may take a number of different forms:

  • Holding you down or preventing you from getting up/away
  • Coercion, pressuring, or wearing you down in order to have you submit to sexual acts that you do not want to do
  • Forcing you to submit to sexual acts after a physical assault, either to prove your forgiveness or to further intimidate and humiliate you
  • Sexually torturing and humiliating you

Many victims of intimate partner sexual assault have a difficult time identifying their experiences as "assault" or accepting that it is not their fault. Many feel guilty for not having struggled more, or not having said "no." Coercive tactics are particularly confusing to survivors, who may feel that they "consented" by ceasing to resist the coercion. Some survivors mistakenly believe that if they did not try to physically fight their abuser and thereby sustain injuries, that it is not 'real rape.'

It is never your fault if someone forces or coerces you to have sexual contact with him/her.

Recommended reading:

  • License to Rape: Sexual Abuse of Wives by David Finkelhor & Kersti Yllo
    David Finkelhor and Kersti Yllo of the Family Research Laboratory in New Hampshire, surveyed over 300 community women in Boston and found that while 3% reported sexual assault by a stranger, 10% who had been married reported sexual assault by a husband or an ex-husband.
  • Rape in Marriage by Diana Russell, Indiana University Press, 1990
    "More than 1 in every 7 women who have ever been married, have been raped in marriage."