“Every woman has the right to control
her own body and to make decisions about having sex, using
birth control, becoming pregnant and having children. She does
not lose those rights if she marries [or is intimate with another
“Toda mujer tiene derecho de contolar
su cuerpo y de decidir sobre su relacion sexual, de usar anticonceptivos,
embarazarse y tener hijos. Al casarse no pierde estos derechos.”
- From Stopping Sexual Assault in Marriage/Supresion Del
Ataque Sexual En El Matrimonio, Center for Constitutional
Having sex with a person one time does not imply consent
to any future sexual acts.
What is Intimate Partner Sexual Assault?
Sexual acts may be accomplished against a person’s
- physical force
- threats of force to the victim or a third person
- implied harm based on prior assaults causing the woman
to fear that physical force will be used if she resists.
She does not need to resist for it to be rape.
Women in violent relationships often know what will result
from not cooperating with their batterers’ wishes. Some
may have suffered physical abuse or psychological abuse, had
money or other necessities taken or withheld from them. The
resulting assault may be more harmful to her if she tries to
How do these victims differ from victims of other
forms of rape?
Women raped by a partner are being violated by someone with
whom they share their lives, homes and possibly children. In
addition to the violation of their bodies, they are faced with
a betrayal of trust and intimacy. Victims of this form of sexual
assault are the least likely to see it as a violation of their
rights. Opinion polls show that people believe that intimate
partner rapes are less harmful than stranger rapes.
Research indicates that victims of intimate partner rape
are more likely to be raped multiple times when compared with
stranger and acquaintance rape victims, and they suffer long
lasting physical and psychological injuries which are as severe
or more severe than stranger rape victims.
Why would a man rape his partner?
It is a form of control and a way of breaking down his victim’s
sense of self worth and will. It is also a difficult crime
for a woman to report. Still, it is against the law.
Why would a woman stay with a man who raped her?
The victims of rape often blame themselves for the crime
that has been committed against them. When they live in the
same home with the rapist, have children with him and/or are
married to him, they may believe it is their “wifely
duty”. Many religious doctrines include phrases that
are interpreted as meaning that women have a duty to submit
to their partner’s sexual desires. Women who are raped
in intimate relationships are also suffering other forms of
abuse that might be affecting their ability to seek help and
find a way out of the relationship.
Women stay in abusive relationships for many reasons. Often
they believe they are to blame for the pain they are suffering
and want to make things work. Many women cannot leave a relationship
because they do not have the financial resources to do so.
If there are children involved, the problem is compounded by
custody battles, childcare expenses and the exhaustion of handling
the demands of children on a daily basis. Women stay with their
abusers because they love them and have planned a future with
Focusing on “Why does she stay?” and not
asking its important counterpart “Why do men abuse women?” is
called “victim blaming”. This is reinforcing
the idea that women are responsible for the violence that
is perpetrated against them. NO ONE deserves
to be mistreated or made to do things against one’s
will. Leaving someone who is abusive can be a complex and
What can I do about intimate partner sexual assault?
- Educate yourself! There are numerous books and articles
on the issue. Learn how it is part of the most lethal domestic
- Familiarize yourself with the law in your state. Communicate
your opinions with your elected representatives.
- Educate others! Share this knowledge with your friends
and family. Teach nonviolence and respect for others.
This information is adapted from “The
Wife Rape Information Page” at http://www.unh.edu/student-life/sharpp/marital.html.
Contact the Virginia Family Violence and Sexual
Assault Hotline for more information: 1.800.838.8238 (V/TTY)
or e-mail Info@vsdvalliance.org. E-mail is not a secure form of communication. To ensure confidentiality please call the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.838.8238 (V/TTY).