The Intersection Between Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault


Sexual assault is a term that describes sexual contact without explicit consent from the victim. This includes attempted rape, fondling, unwanted sexual touching, coercing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator's body, and penetration of the victim's body, which is known as rape. 


Sexual violence is a hidden yet common and complex aspect of intimate partner violence (IPV). Oftentimes, sexual abuse is normalized in the context of the abusive relationship, so it may not be recognized for what it is — assault and/or rape which is a crime. Between 10% and 14% of married women will be raped at some point during their marriages. 


The term marital rape refers to sexual acts without both partner's consent. It is especially important to note that the legal union of marriage or the context of a romantic relationship is not in itself consent. Each person must give consent each time for any sexual activity to be consensual. And each partner has the right to revoke consent at any point in time.  


Physically abusive partners are often sexually abusive as well. Feelings of shame, confusion, and fear can be overwhelming and can impact a survivor's ability to disclose the existence and extent of sexual violence in the relationship. Some survivors say that when disclosing domestic abuse, their experience with sexual abuse is the last thing they feel open to speaking up about. 


Over half of women raped by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted multiple times by the same partner. As with physical abuse, sexual abuse is used to intimidate, control, and manipulate victims/survivors of domestic violence. 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime, and women who are disabled, pregnant, or attempting to leave are at a greater risk for being raped by their partner. 18% of female victims of spousal rape say that their children witness the crime. 


Sexual assault is a widespread issue; Here are ways we can put an end to it. First, speaking out about sexual assault, creating dialogue around it, and being there for victims that we may know personally is important. You can also encourage OB/GYNs in the community to screen women for signs of physical and sexual violence, as well as ask patients questions regarding abusive relationships during check-ups. Another way to spread awareness is to work with local schools and youth-oriented organizations to teach about healthy relationships, participate or initiate sexual assault awareness issues on campus, and volunteer at a local sexual assault coalition or rape crisis center. 

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, there are resources in Northwest Arkansas to help.

Here are a few resources to better understand sexual assault, and it's connection to domestic violence.

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