Domestic Abuse - What is sexual abuse and how you can seek help
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Many people are aware of sexual abuse and violence outside of the domestic setting – but it is sadly far too often a too difficult a subject for many to talk about when it happens within a relationship.
And not only is it sometime too difficult to talk about but people do not understand where crimes are committed, specifically within a marriage.
What is sexual abuse?
For many sexual abuse is limited to the types of offence that make news headlines – from stranger rapes to the sexual abuse committed by those is positions of trust.
However, there are a whole range of behaviours within a domestic setting that can constitute sexual abuse.
These can be, but not limited to:
deliberately causing pain during sex
assaulting the genitals
forced sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
forcing someone to perform sexual acts
using sexually degrading insults
unwanted exposure to pornography
withholding sex as punishment
using sex to coerce compliance
Rape within marriage
A survey in 2018 reported that a quarter of the 4,000 people surveyed did not believe that non-consensual sex within marriage was illegal.
And while that was the case for many years the offence was explicitly laid out as a criminal act in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The definition of consent does not change whether you are in a relationship or not - and it is absolutely essential all parties are clear that they wish to participate in any sexual acts.
Definition of Consent
“If they agree by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice”
This can be broken down into two considerations:
Whether they had the capacity to make a choice about whether or not to take part in the sexual activity at the time in question. By capacity, this can mean whether they were old enough, whether they were intoxicated, or whether they had the mental capacity to choose (having learning difficulties for example.)
Whether they were in a position to make that choice freely, and they were not constrained in any way. This means without physical or mental coercion of any kind.
What to do if you are a victim or are concerned about a friend, loved one or colleague?
If you are a victim of sexual assault, either within or outside a relationship, recently or non-recently, then you can report this to your local police force on 999 or the 101 non-emergency number.
Specialist officers within the force, trained to provide support to victims of rape, sexual violence and sexual abuse, will be provided to you if you report an incident. However, you may also wish to take advantage of independent support from groups such as SV2 - https://www.sv2.org.uk/ - which offer counselling, support groups and Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (known as ISVAs) to victims.
The charity also offers an advice line and resources for victims, or those who may be concerned about friend, relative or colleague.
How to keep internet activity secret
Sexual abuse within a relationship may form part of wider abuse behaviour an element of which may include the abuser checking your phone or computer.
If you are accessing support websites then this is best done on a computer that the abuser does not have access to, at work or a local library for instance.