Monday, 29 September 2014

Partner Abuse Overview

Some great resources on


Sexual abuse and assault happen in relationships that may not be overtly abusive. However, partner rape itself is domestic violence, and since it is an act of control, we shouldn't be surprised when it coexists with other forms of abusive control.
These might be any of the below:
  • Physical abuse i.e. battery. Studies do indicate that the tendency toward partner rape increases significantly in men who batter. (Bergen, R, Wife Rape: Understanding the Response of Survivors and Service Providers, Sage Publications, California, 1996) Physical abuse also takes the form of throwing objects, hurting pets, or pushing and shoving.
  • Emotional Abuse: Putdowns, emotional blackmail, shaming, making jokes at your expense, withdrawing affection as punishment, deliberately embarrassing you
  • Mental Abuse: Negative comments about your intelligence, "mind-games" such as insisting something didn't happen when you know it did; calling you crazy or trying to drive you crazy, "second-guessing" you.
  • Social Abuse: Insisting on accompanying you on all social outings or refusal to allow you to go at all; isolating you from family and friends.
  • Financial Abuse: Insisting that you work in the family business for no money; preventing you from earning your own money, making you account for every cent, giving you an "Allowance", controlling any money you make.
  • Spiritual Abuse: Mocking your religion, insisting that you embrace his religion, preventing you from going to church, distorting and quoting scripture to manipulate you into submission
  • Using "Male Privilege": Claiming the right to do as he pleases while the same right doesn't extend to you because you're a woman. Male privilege may also be a part of sexual assault; for example he may say that as your husband, it's his right to have you whenever he wants you.

If you've experienced these other forms of abuse, you may have come to doubt your own worth or sanity, and have little self-confidence. But just remember: These are tactics that abusers use to control and intimidate. Whatever you may have come to believe about yourself is a reflection of the abuse, not of truth. Please do think about seeking help - you deserve much better. Nobody has the right to control and hurt you.

(Source: Easteal, P. And McOrmond-Plummer, L, Real Rape Real Pain: Help for Women Sexually Assaulted by Male Partner, Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, 2006)

It's a common misconception that rape - particularly partner rape - is about sex, rather than an act of power, control and violence. Here are common types of partner rape (note: They are NOT excuses for abuser behaviour, and just because an abuser is motivated by, say, power one time doesn't mean he always is; I can clearly identify times when my ex-partner was motivated either by power or by anger):
  • Power Rape: This happens to "show her who's boss." Batterers often want sex after beating their partners, and it's a means of forcing the woman to forget the fight and make up. It may happen because she said no to sex, or because she wants to leave. It may not be physically violent, but can involve sufficient force to get what he wants. Power rape occurs also when a woman is bullied or intimidated into giving in "to keep the peace."
  • Anger Rape: Anger rape is often very violent and is carried out in retaliation when a man perceives his partner "deserves" it - perhaps by calling his masculinity into question. It might be a response to her leaving, "flirting", showing him up in front of others.
  • Sadistic Rape: Where an anger rapist hurts the woman to punish her, in sadistic rape the abuser gets off on causing the pain, fear and humiliation. Cutting, biting, burning, urinating upon the victim or other painful and humiliating treatment characterizes sadistic rape.
  • Obsessive Rape: If you experienced sexual assault from a partner who was obsessed with pornography or forced you into repeated sex-acts that were bizarre or fetishistic in nature, this is characteristic of obsessive rape. It may also be repeated and constant acts of anal or oral rape - something the abuser is fixated with doing.
(Sources: Finkelhor, D. and Yllo, K., License to Rape, The Free Press, New York, 1985; Russell, Diana E.H. Rape in Marriage MacMillan Publishing Company, USA 1990; Easteal, P. and McOrmond-Plummer, L, Real Rape Real Pain: Help for Women Sexually Assaulted by Male Partners, Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, 2006)

  • Denial: Acting as if nothing out of the ordinary happened, boldly stating that it didn't happen, calling you crazy for saying that it did, saying he doesn't remember.
  • Rationalization: "You must have wanted it" "You could have stopped me," "A husband is entitled to it"; Rationalization is also blaming you: " If you gave me more sex I wouldn't have to force you" "You are a cocktease"
  • Minimization: I didn't really hurt you" "You're making a fuss about nothing" "I just wanted to make love to you."
  • Claiming Loss of Control: "I was too turned on to stop", "You make me so angry"
(Source: Easteal, P. And McOrmond-Plummer, L, Real Rape Real Pain: Help for Women Sexually Assaulted by Male Partners, Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, 2006)

If you identify with any of the above, please know that there is help available. Don't be afraid to call domestic violence or sexual assault services- also Pandora's Aquarium has many survivors of partner rape who will gladly support you.

For Survivors of Marital / Partner Rape

Have you been forced into sex with your partner? Perhaps it involved you being beaten or threatened with weapons, or your partner may have badgered you, withdrawing affection or refusing to allow you to sleep until you give in. You may have been drunk or drugged, or your partner set you up for gang-rape. Maybe it happened many times, or maybe once - and once is once too many. Please know that there is compassion and support available for you. At Pandora's Project, we recognize the unique issues that survivors of sexual assault by an intimate partner face. First, there is the fact that social attitudes often minimize marital and partner rape and do not believe it constitutes a serious trauma. Research, however, has shown that intimate relationships are one of the commonest settings for sexual assault, that partner rape entails the highest levels of repeated rape and physical injury, and that the trauma may be longer-lasting than for survivors of other types of rape (please see this page for research and citations).

Ideas about what "real" rape is combined with other issues like society being slow to name this problem and assumptions that being in a relationship equals unlimited consent, means that survivors of partner rape, even if they are traumatized, have a hard time recognizing that what happened was rape. This can delay healing and prolong danger for them. Some survivors, however, unequivocally know that they were raped and struggle with frustration at the lack of validation they receive - for example, church, family or friends advise them that it isn't really rape, and to remain with the perpetrator.

Partner rape may happen in relationships that are otherwise respectful and egalitarian, but it frequently does involve other forms of abuse and control - please see this page. People often don't realize that leaving can be extremely dangerous for a woman who is being raped by her partner. The risk of more violence including battery, rape and homicide escalates after separation.

If you have been forced or coerced into sex acts with your partner, what is happening to you is a crime. Please see this page for definitions of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse. Please don't let anybody minimize it. Just as importantly, even if you don't feel that what happened to you can be called rape or sexual assault, if your partner is doing things to you sexually that are causing you pain, you deserve to get support.

What you may be feeling

This is not an exhaustive list but what follows are some very common ways that survivors of partner rape feel.

You may be some years out of the relationship and still struggling to define what happened to you. You may feel ashamed that you kept it secret for so long, and wonder if you can call it rape so long after the fact. Some survivors report "feeling like liars" in calling partner rape by it's name. You may be afraid that people will blame you because you remained in the relationship after being sexually assaulted, or may say that it couldn't have harmed you too badly. You may be so traumatized that you've attempted to forget about it but find that it emerges in nightmares or flashbacks. This may be triggered by ongoing contact with the perpetrator via custody of children, or attendance at the same school. If your partner presented as a good person socially, others may not have believed you, or may have been hostile to you, and you perhaps now feel that there's nowhere to turn. You may feel as if you're "overreacting" by being upset by it.

If you are still living with the partner who sexually assaulted you, you may feel isolated, frightened, deeply betrayed and hurt. You may feel reluctant to call a partner you still love a rapist, or may feel as if you're committing a betrayal by talking about it. You may be deeply ashamed and wonder what it is you're doing wrong, or scared that others will blame you or demand that you leave. If you are contemplating leaving, you may be frightened for your life (with good reason), or afraid that you will be a bad parent. You may be afraid of seeking help, or you might squash your pain with drinking and drugs.

These are all very normal reactions. It is important that you know that whatever your situation is, you have the same right to healing and support as any other survivor of rape.

What does Pandora's Project offer survivors of marital and partner rape?

Marital Rape researcher Raquel Kennedy Bergen found that what survivors of partner rape most frequently want is support groups comprising other survivors who have shared their experiences (Wife Rape: Understanding the Response of Survivors and Service Providers, Sage Publications, California, 1996). Our messageboard and chatroom, Pandora's Aquarium, has many members who are survivors of partner rape. They will make you very welcome and help you feel less alone - whether you are still in the relationship or not. We have a forum for survivors of relationship violence where people post about all sorts of situations - somebody has felt as you feel. There are specific discussions for those who feel able to participate - recent ones include:

  • Abusers and their denial
  • Relationship Violence and pregnancy
  • The weird things abusers do
  • The adultery
  • How has the physical violence effected you?
  • Mind Games
  • Why do we stay?
  • The rape
You can post in this forum or anywhere else you like. The forums are private and survivor-only. Please note that this isn't a substitute for professional help, but is all about peer-support - or getting you support from other people who have shared your experiences. Our chatroom is safely moderated, and most forums are private and survivor-only. Please be sure to read about safety online, particularly if your abuser shares your computer.

If you are in danger, we espouse a policy of safety first and we suggest that you make use of crisis resources. We hope that if you are in danger, you will find help to the freedom you deserve. But nobody will tell you what to do, blame you or minimize what happened to you. We are committed to offering quality peer-support for survivors of partner rape. You can post as much or as little as you like, or not at all - some survivors just feel comforted by reading the words of other survivors. If you would like to know how to join Pandora's Aquarium, please see this page.

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