Sexual Abuse in Relationships

Sexual abuse can happen in a wide variety of situations. Contrary to what many people believe, sexual abuse can be perpetrated by someone you are in a relationship with. We know that sexual abuse in relationships is something that many people think does not happen, but the reality is that it does happen, and perpetrators should be brought to justice. Here, we want to discuss what sexual abuse looks like inside of a relationship, analyze how this differs from other types of sexual abuse, and discuss what you can do if you are a survivor of relationship sexual abuse.

What is Sexual Abuse in Relationships?

Sexual abuse in relationships refers to a series of behaviors used to manipulate or influence an intimate partner. Typically, these behaviors are designed by the perpetrator to gain control over another person sexually. This may involve acts of physical abuse, but it may only involve mental and emotional manipulation.

Relationship sexual abuse can refer to any unwanted or non-consensual sexual contact between a person and their romantic partner. This type of abuse involves pressuring, coercing, or forcing someone to perform a sexual act that they do not want to perform.

Warning Signs of Relationship Sexual Abuse

There are various signs of relationship sexual abuse. However, it is important to point out that this type of abuse often occurs over long periods of time, sometimes beginning with very subtle signs, then moving towards obvious outright signs of sexual abuse. Under California law, the legal definition of sexual assault has to do with touching the intimate parts of another person against that person’s will. This can be hard to identify inside of a relationship.

However, if you have experienced any of the following, you may be the victim of relationship sexual abuse:

  • Sexual abuse in conjunction with physical, mental, or emotional abuse
  • Using shame, guilt, fear, threats, intimidation, or manipulation to force you into having sex
  • Using sex as a tool to gain power or control
  • Taking out anger or frustration on you during sexual activities
  • Forcing you to have non-consensual sex
  • Holding you down or restraining you during sexual acts
  • Forcing you to perform sex acts you are not comfortable with
  • Demanding sex even if you do not feel well
  • Engaging in sexual activities while you are intoxicated or unconscious

Relationship sexual abuse can occur to anybody, regardless of their age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or relationship status.

What You Can do in This Situation

If you have been the victim of relationship sexual abuse, there are various steps that you can take to help ensure that you get out of the situation safely. This can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Contacting a trusted family member or friend and getting assistance to get you away from an unsafe situation. 
  • Contacting the domestic violence hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) for professional help.
  • Documenting everything that has happened, perhaps in a journal that is in a safe location.
  • Possibly going to the hospital to obtain a sexual assault forensic exam to collect your partner’s DNA for any potential criminal or civil case.

You may need to contact a skilled sexual abuse attorney in California who can help you through every step of this process. An attorney will be able to help you understand the best steps possible for your situation.