Sexual Abuse in Marriage

Sexual abuse is another tactic used by the abuser as a means of exerting power and control over his partner. Sexual abuse is defined as any undesired sexual activity, including unwanted sexual advances, forced exposure to pornography, or sexual encounters tied to emotional, physical, social, or spiritual abuse. This form of abuse strikes at the victim's most vulnerable and sacred trust. It combines sexual betrayal with physical, emotional, and spiritual harm.

One woman related her abuser's tactics of combining sexual and spiritual abuse. When she did not welcome his sexual advances he browbeat her with a perversion of scripture, claiming that her body was not her own but was his. As the head of the household, he claimed, he had a right to her body when it pleased him. He berated her faith and expressed doubt that she was a Christian because she certainly was not acting like one. A Christian wife, he claimed, would never turn down her husband. This form of abuse crushed her soul because her faith was the core of her being.

Other women have related emotionally abusive tactics such as name calling if she is not sexually responsive. Abusers will quickly resort to taunts such as, "frigid" and "lesbian" if their wives were not ready when called. An abuser often threatens infidelity, "If you won't have sex with me then I will find it elsewhere. There are plenty of women out there." Anna remarked, "I could either spread my legs before he resorted to name calling or after, my choice."

"He wants sex when he wants it, the way he likes it, and with little regard to how I feel or what I want," wrote one woman still trapped in her abusive relationship. His advances come most every night that he is home. If she does not give in to his advances then he either forces himself upon her or he displaces his anger onto the children; her options were to give in to his demands or put a child in danger of an undeserved spanking. Each time she gave in, however, she felt like she had lost another piece of her soul. She welcomes the nights he is drinking with the guys or spending time with another woman.

Clara related a similar experience when she said that she never turned her husband down in an effort to protect her children. "Win one for the Gipper" was her silent motto.

Margaret tried to laugh about the many inappropriate times her abuser insisted upon a "quick trip between the sheets." She recounts the hour before her grandmother's funeral when her abuser decided it was time for a quickie. She is not sure how many of the tears she shed that afternoon were for her grandma and how many were for herself. She decided she had plenty to cry about and a funeral was a safe place to let tears stream down her cheeks.

Margaret was not able to produce even a chuckle when she described her abuser's insistence upon sex during birthday parties. "The dozen or so children would be running around the house like wild banshees and where was the mother? Satisfying the abuser's sexual demands, where else?" She still carries a load of guilt that she did not responsibly take care of the young guests.

Katherine felt like an object of sexual gratification to her abuser. She related countless stories of her husband grabbing her breasts in public. "He would simply grab hold and squeeze. If I shrugged him off he would squeeze all the harder and longer. The best I could do was to stand still and hope he finished groping me quickly."

She also told stories of her abuser not speaking to her for days on end for a feigned offense. She knew the silent treatment was over when he forced himself upon her. She felt like an object to him when she was required to perform upon his command. "No thoughts, feelings, or opinions were allowed."

Most women who will talk about their experiences of sexual abuse describe various strategies of a mental escape. Some women learn to disassociate themselves from the attack and watch dispassionately from outside their bodies. This allows the woman to get through his sexual advances without connecting to her abuser; other women simply turn off all emotions and put their thoughts on other things. Karen said she typically planned the week's menus and mentally wrote out her grocery list.

Sexual abuse is generally considered to be the most damaging of all the types that can be inflicted upon a woman. Each time her abuser forces himself upon her or forces her to do what she does not care to do he destroys another portion of her soul.

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Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

Wow! What a painful experience. It sounds like our husbands went to the same abuse school! It is amazing how very much alike one abuser is to another. It seems like they all went to the same school of abuse. I think the sexual abuse has been the hardest to truly move past. I wish you the very best. I would love to be able to ask you more questions and hear your story for an upcoming publication on sexual abuse in marriage. It is not spoken of very often but it needs to be. Once you shine a light on something it seems to lose it power. Be strong and never give up!

Abused 4 years ago

Hi Mary,

Thank you so much for writing this... There isn't many sites that actually share this type of abuse and when I think back to my relationship with my husband (now soon to be ex) I realize that it was sexual abuse, and it is scary how the Emotional, Phsycological and Mental abuse all link up to it. you seemed to describe my husband perfectly. Groping in public, when you say NO stop, he says "Why? I say Yes". The day I got married should have been the happiest day of my life instead it was the saddest.... He turned around and said... " You know what it means with that ring on your finger... it means that, that is no longer your body it belongs to me" When I commented and said you have no claim it still remains my body he just laughed and said " we will see"... At least I know now that I am not going crazy and I am not the only one going through this horrible ordeal. Thank you again Mary

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

Awesome! I will check this out myself. Thank you for letting me know.

debbiepinkston profile image

debbiepinkston 4 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

Mary, I wanted to let you know that my ebook, "To Love and to Cherish...facing sexual abuse in marriage" (D. Anne Pierce) is now on Amazon for $5.99. I hope it is helpful to women who might find themselves in this situation (or men!)

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Distressed 4 years ago

If my husband hits me .. And I tell him not to touch me . He touches my breast and say " ok now I have touched you hit me back ! " I don't know how to deal with it .. Makes me angry and abused. I find it better for him to hit me than to touch me there.

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lilMissScrittore 4 years ago

Thanks for drawing attention to an issue that so many fail to recognize happens and is a form of rape regardless of marital status.

whizcreed profile image

whizcreed 4 years ago from India

Hey, it was great reading this hub. I really sympathize with those going through such unfortunate conditions. But it is not always the same and is just one side of the situation. Sex is without any doubt an essential part of a healthy relationship.

If I came up tomorrow and said my wife (I am not married) is sexually abusing me and is taunting me that you are not man enough to satisfy me, then who would categorize it as an abuse, rather I will be prescribed with viagra. At most someone would suggest to consult a marriage counselor, sex therapist, get help from sex addiction groups. - Why not the same advice for women? Men and women are more or less messed up when it comes to sexuality. And just like any other problem, a couple should try to deal with it in a more mature manner, rather than just giving up calling yourself a woman and pron to sexual abuse. In many, or maybe most of the cases it is worst and there is hardly that can be done but that does not sets the standard of each situation.

I posted a question on more or less the same topic:

I think it is less to do with just the gender on what determines who will dominate or who will suffer. It is lack of compassion, only if we respected our partners enough and their needs (in favor or against sex), Sex would not overshadow relationships and create such difficult situations.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

I am so sorry you are trapped in such a rough situation. I know it feels so very hopeless. I remember so many nights having to do what I did not want to do because I knew if I did not give him what he wanted then it would be rough on the kids. I held on until my youngest turned 14. That is the age in WA state where a child may have more say in visitation. I wanted my children to have a voice so I waited and waited until I could make my move. It was very frightening. I had been a stay at home Mom for 20 years. I was so afraid that I could not make it on my own but by the grace of God I managed. It has been nearly 9 years since I left my abuser. Some years were mighty tough but the freedom I enjoy today makes the tough years worth it. I do hope you find your way out. Hugs through the Hubs!


Angie 4 years ago

Yes thers sexual abuse in marriage .I am in this situation.If i refuse my husband he has a bad attitude with his kids shouting,not doing his duties like a father,refusing to buy what it needs and making a mess in family.The situation is more bad then i can say and at this moment i can't leave him:(

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

I will definitely check out your blog. My current writing is aimed at helping women who have experienced this abuse within marriage. i know. Most people deny that it can be rape if it happens within the marriage relationship. there are so many hurting women who are finding no answer for their pain. I hope to expose this horror and offer some aid and comfort. Thank you for taking on this dark subject matter.

Debbie 4 years ago

Thank you for bringing up this topic which is still taboo. Finally people are aware of childhood sexual abuse and many books have been written on the topic, but very little has been written about sexual abuse within marriage. I was also told that I was "his wife and it was my duty to please him, whenever, and however he wanted 'it'". I am writing a book on this topic and I also have a blog:

Thank you again.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 4 years ago from Washington Author

Thank you for your comment. Sexual abuse within marriage has been recognized only in recent years. I still hear the question, "How can it be rape if they are married?"

The women I interviewed for my blog described very painful ordeals.

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

Sexual abuse in the context of marriage is an issue of great magnitude both in the West and the East, developed and developing countries.

I appreciate your point of view.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 5 years ago from Washington Author

Absolutely. We have to be willing to talk about this stuff if we hope to change our own small corner of the world. Thank you for your comments.

Gareth Pritchard profile image

Gareth Pritchard 5 years ago from North Wales

Hi Mary,

"It makes for a richer life, don't you think?" I sure do and I actually think or try to think like this, "All answers are in dialogue and we all have part of the answer" to those who restrict dialogue, they restrict their own growth, as those who will talk, will do just that.

Thanks, Gareth.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 5 years ago from Washington Author

I think it is great to hear different points of view. It makes for a richer life, don't you think? I welcome comments from people who agree and disagree with me. I especially appreciate your thoughtful comments. Thank you!

Gareth Pritchard profile image

Gareth Pritchard 5 years ago from North Wales

Hey Mary, no problem now because the point has been raised and you have allowed it air. So that is very cool and trust building as well as not coming from somebody who doesn't really care as much as they do about their own position as a Hub writer, if you can understand what I am getting at.

I do feel I have made some very interesting comments in a few places that don't see the light of day, which can only be because the person who has written the piece doesn't really want to deal with any truth other than their own.

I will thank you very, very, much for that, Gareth.

Mary Stuart profile image

Mary Stuart 5 years ago from Washington Author

Hi Gareth,

I understand your comments concerning my writing to be one sided. The thing is... I can't write about men suffering sexual abuse in marriage. I have no experience with it and would not even know where to begin. I have no doubt that abuse does not belong exclusively to men; women are also capable of abusing others. I would speak to male sexual abuse if I could.

Gareth Pritchard profile image

Gareth Pritchard 5 years ago from North Wales

Hi Mary,

I have a suggestion and I don't know how well it is going to be taken but as a man I feel that this is very one sided. I do not for one second think that this has no bases in fact because I would bet my life that this is true but it should be titled female sexual abuse in marriage.

There is no mention of any males being sexually abused and men also get married and get abused, although the law is quite odd in that area I think and the male ego and perception also. I expect that it is difficult to prove sexual abuse of the male in a marriage situation but that does not mean it does not happen.

Just on a more positive note I can't say I enjoyed reading this but I did find it interesting even if it is one sided.

Thanks, Gareth.

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