I remember the first time someone asked me if my then husband had sexually abused me. I gave a quick, “no,” and moved on to the next question. The man asking me was my son’s counselor, and he did not let me change the subject. He had heard my now ex-husband berating my then four-year old daughter. He asked the question again, and explained a husband can sexually abuse their wife.
“Does he touch you inappropriately without permission?” Yes
“Does he make you feel you owe him sex?” Yes
“Does he force you to have sex?” Yes
“He raped you.” As his words reached my ears, I felt nauseous. All that time, I felt that he owned me, and I didn’t have the right to say no. The times he called me names because I fought back played over in my mind. All that time he made me feel like his possession. I started to remember other times and events, like the times he would spy on my while I was in the shower. He wouldn’t let me lock the door, saying the kids might need to get in. Or the times he would grab my breasts, just like my stepfather had done when I was a teenager, even though I begged him not to. He thought these things were funny. Still, after all these years later, I still feel like I am being watched while I am in the shower.
It all boils down to the power and control an abusers needs. My ex-husband knew about my past sexual abuse history. He knew my first sexual encounter as a teenager was rape. He knew all the ways to emotionally paralyze me, to get me to a state of fear, and anxiety. The sexual abuse from him came with psychological abuse. He tormented me, and made fun of my body. He treated me like damaged goods, and tried to take possession of my body. He knew all the things to do and say to hurt me.
Ways a partner may sexually abuse their partner to retain power and control may include:
- Forcing you to dress in a sexual way
- Insulting you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
- Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
- Holding you down during sex
- Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you
- Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
- Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
- Ignoring your feelings regarding sex
- Forcing you to watch pornography
- Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you
Sexual coercion lies on the ‘continuum’ of sexually aggressive behavior. It can vary from being egged on and persuaded, to being forced to have contact. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt, or shame. You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For example, an abusive partner:
- Making you feel like you owe them — ex. Because you’re in a relationship, because you’ve had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift
- Giving you drugs and alcohol to “loosen up” your inhibitions
- Playing on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me,” “If I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”
- Reacting negatively with sadness, anger or resentment if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something
- Continuing to pressure you after you say no
- Making you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
- Trying to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a man”
Even if your partner isn’t forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, being made to feel obligated is coercion in itself. Dating someone, being in a relationship, or being married never means that you owe your partner intimacy of any kind.
Reproductive coercion is a form of power and control where one partner strips the other of the ability to control their own reproductive system. It is sometimes difficult to identify this coercion because other forms of abuse are often occurring simultaneously.
Reproductive coercion can be exerted in many ways:
- Refusing to use a condom or other type of birth control
- Breaking or removing a condom during intercourse
- Lying about their methods of birth control (ex. lying about having a vasectomy, lying about being on the pill)
- Refusing to “pull out” if that is the agreed upon method of birth control
- Forcing you to not use any birth control (ex. the pill, condom, shot, ring, etc.)
- Removing birth control methods (ex. rings, IUDs, contraceptive patches)
- Sabotaging birth control methods (ex. poking holes in condoms, tampering with pills or flushing them down the toilet)
- Withholding finances needed to purchase birth control
- Monitoring your menstrual cycles
- Forcing pregnancy and not supporting your decision about when or if you want to have a child
- Forcing you to get an abortion, or preventing you from getting one
- Threatening you or acting violent if you don’t comply with their wishes to either end or continue a pregnancy
- Continually keeping you pregnant (getting you pregnant again shortly after you give birth)
Reproductive coercion can also come in the form of pressure, guilt and shame from an abusive partner. Some examples are if your abusive partner is constantly talking about having children or making you feel guilty for not having or wanting children with them — especially if you already have kids with someone else.
Information shared here was found at https://www.thehotline.org.