Sexual Abuse

Sexual violence refers to any type of forced, unwanted, or coerced sexual activity. Sexual abuse is used to control, dominate, humiliate, and demean an individual, and it often goes unreported due to the nature of the violence and the difficulty for the victim to disclose. Victims of sexual abuse may feel ashamed or afraid to tell friends or family about the abuse; they may also think that the police and legal system will not believe them or cannot help them. Victims of sexual assault within intimate relationships may not identify the behavior as abusive.

Sexual abuse by a spouse or partner is often called Intimate Partner Sexual Violence. It is sometimes the sole form of abuse, but often is combined with physical and other forms.

Are you experiencing sexual abuse? This can include, but is not limited to:

• Forcing you to participate in sexual acts against your will

• Forcing you to engage in sexual acts in front of or with other people

• Forcing you to watch and/or repeat pornographic acts

• Taking sexual photos of you against your will

• Forcing you to strip against your will

• Committing cruel sexual acts

• Treating you as a sex object

• Peeping

• Using unwanted sexually suggestive language

Facts and Statistics:

Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives.

In the first rape experience of female victims, perpetrators were reported to be intimate partners (30.4%), family members (23.7%), and acquaintances (20%). (National Survey)

Sexual abuse can impact health in many ways; some are serious and can lead to long-term health problems. These include chronic pain, headaches, stomach problems, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Sexual abuse is linked to negative health behaviors. For example, victims are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, use drugs, and engage in risky sexual activity.

The anger and stress that victims feel may lead to eating disorders and depression. Some even think about or attempt suicide.

Intimate Partner Sexual Assault:

Intimate Partner Sexual Assault is a serious form of violence that can have life-shattering effects for its victims. This term is now used to describe sexual assault by an intimate partner, including married and unmarried spouses, or a serious dating relationship. Marital rape refers specifically to married spouses. While marital rape has been illegal in every state and the District of Columbia since 1993, it is infrequently prosecuted. This specific form of sexual abuse is frequently under-reported, often due to the difficulty for the victim to identify what happened as a crime.

Intimate partner sexual assault occurs when a spouse forces his or her partner to take part in sex acts without consent. It is an abuse of power by which one spouse attempts to establish dominance and control over the other. Research shows that it can be equally, if not more, emotionally and physically traumatizing than rape by a stranger.

Victims of intimate partner sexual assault are more likely to experience repeated assaults and may take longer recover from the trauma. (RAINN)

If you are being forced into unwanted sexual experiences by your spouse, it is not okay. Contact the Safe Passage office or 24-hour hotline to talk to a counselor about your options.