October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when people begin to take notice of the dynamics of abusive relationships.
One tactic abusers use that people rarely talk about is spousal sexual assault. Every person should understand spousal sexual assault and how it fits into a larger pattern in abusive relationships.
What Is Spousal Sexual Assault?
Spousal sexual assault, sometimes called marital rape, is any sexual contact within a marriage relationship that lacks consent. Spousal sexual assault can take many forms, including:
- Forcing someone into sexual activity against their will
- Physically attacking the sexual parts of someone’s body
- Treating someone like a sex object
- Forcing physical examinations to show if someone has had sex
- Making someone engage in sexual activity to prove they have forgiven the abuser
- Controlling access to or denying birth control
One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, and one in six will experience sexual assault.
While the legal definitions of sexual assault vary by state, it is never acceptable for someone to engage in sexual activity without consent, regardless of their relationship with the other person.
Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence
Sexual assault is one behavior in a broader pattern abusers use to maintain power and control over their partners. Other dynamics of domestic violence include emotional abuse, isolation, intimidation, psychological abuse, economic control, using children, and physical violence.
While not all abusive relationships include spousal sexual assault, it is a common dynamic. It is vital to understand that any sexual assault inside a marital relationship constitutes domestic violence.
Is There Legal Recourse for Spousal Sexual Assault?
Regardless of the relationship between victim and abuser, any survivor of sexual assault can take legal action for their assault, including taking criminal legal action, like filing a police report, and civil legal action, like filing a lawsuit.
Whether someone faces sexual assault charges in a criminal case has no bearing on whether they will be held liable in a civil action. It is possible for someone to be criminally acquitted or never prosecuted and still face civil consequences for spousal sexual assault.
There is legal recourse if you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault. Survivors of spousal sexual assault can contact the Cifarelli Law Firm for more information on their legal options. No one should have to suffer alone.