Abusive relationships - Sexual violence in relationships

Sexual violence is more often committed by someone known to the survivor. This can be a partner, ex-partner or boyfriend and can happen in the context of an intimate relationship. You always have the right to say no to sex, whether or not you have previously had consensual sex with someone. Forced sex within marriage or an intimate relationship, whether this takes place within a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, is still rape. This is a crime.

Domestic abuse is persistent and controlling behaviour by a partner or ex-partner which causes physical, sexual and/or emotional harm. It often gets worse over time.  In most cases, it is experienced by women and children and is perpetrated by men.

  • Domestic abuse is not an isolated incident;
  • It isn't a fight or an argument.
  • There may be no bruises.
  • It is a pattern of dominating and isolating someone through fear and threats or undermining their self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • It can happen if you live with your partner, or if you don't.
  • It can be perpetrated by a partner or an ex-partner.
  • It can happen if you have children, and if you don't.
  • It cuts across class, ethnic and social boundaries.
  • It often involves serious and sustained physical and sexual abuse which can cause injuries and lead to long-term health problems.
  • It can take the form of withholding money and finances, monitoring women and children's movements, restricting what they wear, who they see, where they go and what they say, on and offline.
  • It can be threatening to or distributing intimate images.
  • It can be manipulating or forcing someone to do something sexual that they don't want to.
  • It can involve stalking and isolating women from their friends and family.
  • It can involve physical violence.
  • Women (and their children) are sometimes killed by a partner or ex-partner.

It is about control, manipulation and humiliation.

The effects of domestic abuse are wide-ranging; much more than the stereotypical image of the bruised woman. Domestic abuse impacts on health, safety, prevents women and children being able to stay in their own home, limits their education and work opportunities – in short, there is no area of life into which domestic abuse doesn’t intrude.

A phrase commonly used is coercive control. This outlines the range of behavior and actions that an abuser may use to keep their partner “in line”, that fall outside of the common understanding that domestic abuse is solely violence-based. Visit the Scottish Women’s Aid website.