Now that we are nearing the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I thought it would a relevant time to shine a light on sexual assault as a prevalent part of domestic violence. Unfortunately, I’ve found it is a widely held belief that sexual assault in relationships does not or cannot happen. Too often people believe forced sex by a partner is not “real rape” and/or that rape by partner is “just not that bad.” After all, spousal rape was not criminalized and classified as rape in all 50 states until 1993. In my short time of volunteering as an advocate on the the domestic violence support line, I’ve noticed DV survivors often downplay (or entirely don’t acknowledge) rape and sexual assault from their partners. Who knows how many callers omit that part of the abuse because they may feel ashamed, unjustified or otherwise don’t realize that what they are experiencing is sexual abuse. I don’t feel like enough people talk about that — which I can understand because, honestly, it is an ugly topic but its certainly a conversation we need to be having. I also feel like those are some of the most disturbing stories I’ve had to hear about. The way we downplay sexual violence within relationships/marriages perpetuates harmful myths about what sexual assault really is and serves as a barrier for survivors coming forward about their experience.
The idea that sexual assault in a relationship can’t happen is an archaic myth that needs to addressed and consistently challenged! Consent is a necessary part of every intimate encounter whether that be with someone you barely know or someone you’ve been married to for years. You are not obligated to engage in sexual acts that make you uncomfortable. You do not have to feel guilty for not wanting sex. Your partner is not entitled to your body– your body is yours and yours alone. You have the right to say no and have your boundaries be respected. You have the right to feel comfortable and safe!
~ Shaena, Program Assistant & DV Advocate
If you are interested in additional resources on intimate partner sexual violence, here are some articles that may be of use:
Looking for support?
SF Women Against Rape 24 hr. Support Line | 415-647-7273
National Sexual Assault Hotline | 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)
W.O.M.A.N., Inc. 24/7 Support Line | (415) 864-4722
National Domestic Violence Hotline | 1-800-799-7233