For many years (decades, centuries. . .), the approach to the Relationship Sexual Abuse was: “You’re married, so if your husband wants to have sex, then you have to have sex.” There was never a discussion of whether or not the wife had the right to refuse – the marital contract created an obligation to follow through with the demand for sex.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, women began to loudly demand the right to be able to say “no” related to their own bodies, and the term “marital rape” began conversations about what was happening in abusive relationships. Sexual assault, or rape, within a marriage or relationship is a show of force, a show of power, and a demand by the abuser for sexual access without permission to the victim. An abuser who uses sexual assault in the relationship states reasons such as “you owe it to me,” or “you belong to me,” and other possessive statements. Such statements are very telling – it is an indication that the abuser sees the victim as less than an equal partner, sometimes less than a person, and sometimes simply as a possession.
Many victims, even today, don’t realize that this demand for sex, and physically forced sexual interaction, is abusive. When discussing their difficulties, they leave out the sexual abuse because they don’t identify it as abuse – they identify it as an obligation, a chore, something they hate doing, but not as abuse.
While not identifying this abusive interaction as “abuse,” relationship sexual abuse still has devastating consequences for the victim. It is a break in the trust relationship that often is impossible to repair. Feelings of shame, humiliation, inadequacy, and worthlessness can lead to long term loss of self-esteem, depression, and emotional scars which are very hard to heal.
If you’ve been a victim of this type of abuse, you will never be obligated to discuss the details of your history. But our Advocates are available to assist you with information and resources.