by Jennifer Zamarron, Client Community Advocate for SafeCenter
Domestic violence and sexual assault are not always separate issues. Sexual abuse is often a part of intimate partner domestic violence relationships. An abusive partner will utilize various tactics to gain and maintain control over their partner, including sexual tactics. Some examples of these tactics are using past sexual relationships against them, constantly accusing them of cheating, and coercing or physically forcing them into having sexual interactions that they do not want.
One way this type of abuse manifests is reproductive coercion. This is when an abuser pressures their victim to become pregnant, sabotages birth control methods, or controls the outcome of a pregnancy by either coercing the woman to
continue or end the pregnancy against her will. This behavior is a means of control, making it much more difficult for a victim to leave the relationship. Furthermore, bringing a child into the relationship is an effective way to ensure that the victim is tied to the abuser for many years to come, even if they do escape. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, roughly 25 percent of women who report being physically or sexually abused by their partner also report being pressured or forced to become pregnant.
Sexual assault is illegal, even if the parties are in a relationship or married. While the responsibility for the abuse belongs to the perpetrator, it is the survivor that is often left with guilt and shame, especially if they agreed to the activity. We must consider, however, the difference between consent and compliance. Consent is given freely by someone wanting to participate, whereas compliance is cooperating in an attempt to survive. Abuse is never the fault of the survivor.
SafeCenter is a nonprofit agency whose vision is for all individuals to experience the right to be free from violence. Their mission is to build comprehensive and sustainable community strategies to eliminate domestic and sexual violence in Clinton and Shiawassee Counties. For more information regarding services, contact SafeCenter at (877) 952-7283 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.