Do you tell others about the sexual abuse? — by Barbara Roberts
In addition to other forms of abuse, many victims of domestic abuse suffer sexual abuse from their partner. And it’s really hard to talk about. I’m wanting to explore several challenging questions in this post:
- How many of you (victim-survivors) have stories of sexual abuse as part of your domestic abuse story?
- What kinds of sexual abuse did your spouse do to you?
- Did you tell anyone about it?
- If you did confide or disclose it to someone, who did you tell? Your pastor? A counsellor? A male or a female?
- If you told someone, what was their response?
- Did their response help? Did it hurt, or hinder?
- What do you think would be a good way to for a pastor or counsellor to respond to a victim’s disclosure of spousal sexual abuse?
- Even if you did not experience sexual abuse in your abusive marriage, please tell us that too. It would be interesting to know how many survivors say “I had no sexual abuse whatsoever.”
I’m asking this not just out of general interest, but because I have to write a chapter about how Christian professionals can best respond to such disclosures. The chapter is part of a secular book which is being written to guide various professionals who deal with victims of intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV). My chapter is the Christian input into the book, and I’m aiming my words at pastors, counsellors and paid pastoral care workers.
Can you help me? I would love to hear your answers to any or all of the above questions. Even if you normally use a name (real or invented) on this blog, you can comment on this post anonymously if you wish. Since I’m one of the administrators on this blog, I will be able to see your email address on the admin page (and so will Jeff and Anna), but I promise not to email you unless you specifically write at the end of your comment “It’s okay to email me privately.”
[July 2012 update: I've completed my chapter, so I'm no longer asking for your responses to help me with that. But your sharing and comments on this post will be valued just as much as earlier people's comments have been. I hope this post becomes a repository of stories and comments that will help all who have suffered sexual abuse within marriage.]
To help you think about the kinds of sexual abuse you might have suffered, here is a prompt list (not comprehensive; you may be able to think of more items to add to it):
- grabbing or groping your sexual parts without you having given consent
- coercion to do stuff you didn’t feel comfortable with (e.g. sodomy)
- pressure to be sexual more often that you wanted to be
- unwanted or forced sex of any kind, including but not limited to rape (rape is non-consensual penetration of any orifice)
- unreasonable withholding or denial of sexual intimacy
- emotional blackmail in relation to sexual intimacy
- denigration of your sexual parts, behaviour, or history
- use of scripture to “justify” the sexual abuse (which scriptures in particular?)
- use of pornography
- exposing you to sexually transmissible diseases
- demanding sex when you were sick, had just had a baby, or had a urinary tract infection
- demanding participation in group sex
- making you be a prostitute
- attacking and/or injuring your genitals and sexual body parts
- talking about your sexuality to others in ways that embarrassed or denigrated you.
Also, I would love to know how you thought internally about this from your Christian perspective. In your own mind, did any particular scriptures require you to put up with and endure your spouse’s sexual abuse? If so, how did you eventually deal with that ‘scriptural entrapment’?