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Florida Women's Law Group

Warning Signs Of Sexual Abuse In A Marriage

Author: Florida Women's Law Group
Date: Aug 13 2021

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse in a Relationship

Is sexual assault in a marriage a real thing?  A healthy marriage involves sex, so how can married sex be assault?  According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 10 women have been sexual assaulted by an intimate partner.  Whether you are married or not, sex is consensual.  If you say no, it means no, even if it is to your spouse. 

A marriage does not mean that a spouse is entitled to sex at any time.  Sexual abuse is not just about rape or forced sex it includes anything that you are not comfortable with or is unwanted sexually.  Many spouses do not even realize that they are suffering abuse, they think it is just a part of marriage, it is their duty as a spouse. 

Examples of Sexual Abuse in a Marriage

Sexual abuse is a form of domestic violence and is usually accompanied by other types of abuse.  As with physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse is about one spouse having power, control and dominance over the other.  They can exert this physically or subtly through intimidation and manipulation.  Sexual abuse in a marriage can include:

  1. Partner insists you dress a certain way that makes you uncomfortable

  2. Calls you explicit names or criticizes you in a vulgar and sexual way

  3. Forces or manipulates you into sex

  4. Engages in sexual activities when you are unable to consent – sleeping, intoxicated, sick

  5. Forces you to do things sexually that you do not want to do

  6. Physically holds you down while forcing themselves on you

  7. Hurts you with objects during sex

  8. Chokes, restrains or physically hurts you during sex without your consent

  9. Involves other people in sexual activities without your consent

  10. Forces you to watch or make porn

  11. Refuses to practice safe sex

  12. Prevents you from using birth control or making decisions about pregnancy

Why a Spouse May Not Recognize it as Sexual Abuse

Being sexually assaulted by a spouse is a personal violation of trust.  This is the person you love and who is supposed to love and cherish you.  To live in constant fear of that person is confusing and heart-breaking.  A person in a committed relationship can not be raped, right?  Wrong, any sexual act performed without your consent is rape, no matter if it is your spouse or a stranger.  Victims of stranger rape do not always report their assault, and victims of marital rape almost never report it.  Why do they not see it as sexual assault?

  1. Loyalty to their spouse – A victim may not want to bad-mouth their spouse or cast them in a negative light to other people. It is easier to pretend that nothing is wrong.

  2. It is their duty as a spouse – Being married means it is your duty to have sex with your spouse whenever they want even if you are uncomfortable. You are obligated by wedding vows to perform sexual acts.  No, no and no.  Just because you are married does not mean that consent no longer matters.

  3. Sex out of coercion or fear is not assault. Spouses can provide unrelenting pressure on their partners for sex.  They use fear, intimidation and manipulation to get their partners to give in to their demands.  They make their partner believe that they owe them, or it will keep them from having an affair, or they must watch porn because you refuse sex.  The victim assumes the blame therefore it cannot be assault if it is their fault.

  4. Inexperience with sex – Many victims think that the behavior is normal. They may not have had a sexual relationship before or did not have good role models to show them a healthy sexual relationship.

  5. Religious or cultural influences – As modern as the world seems in the 21st century, there are still many religions and cultures that believe that one spouse should be submissive to the other.

Spouses that are sexually abused by their partners can suffer long-lasting mental health and physical problems.  It is no less traumatic than being assaulted by a stranger.  What’s worse, is that they then must live with their assaulter and be in fear of when it will happen again.  Sexual assault by a partner is still assault and should be reported to the police.  Marital rape is illegal in every state in the U.S.

If some of these behaviors sound familiar to you, these may be red flags of sexual abuse.  The abuser’s actions are meant to belittle you and undermine your self-esteem until you feel powerless to leave.  This abuse is not your fault, you are not to blame and it is not your obligation to participate in sexual activities without your consent.  You do not have to live in an abusive relationship, there are options and ways to leave and gain back your independence.

If you are in an abusive relationship, make a safety plan and get you and your children out of the situation.  You are not alone, we are here to represent women just like you to help you get through this and onto a better and happier life.

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