SUPPORT AT HAND: Intimate partner sexual violence is an often overlooked topic – Bemidji Pioneer

April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month, and for that, let’s focus on an often overlooked topic: intimate partner sexual violence.

IPSV is used to describe any type of non-consensual sexual act that occurs between spouses, ex-spouses, or intimate or longtime partners. IPSV can occur in any relationship, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

IPSV is still quite prevalent, despite how often it can be overlooked. For example, one study found that one in 10 people have been raped by an intimate partner. Despite how often this occurs, it can sometimes be difficult to identify what might be considered IPSV.

IPSV could be, but is not limited to:

  • Using fear, shame, guilt, threats, manipulation or intimidation to force you to have sex.
  • Forcing you to dress in a sexual way.
  • Eliminate anger or frustration with you during sex.
  • Forcing you to have sex when you haven’t given your consent.
  • Holding or restraining you during sex without your consent.
  • Demanding sex when you are tired, sick or injured.
  • Ignore your feelings when it comes to sex.

It is also important to note that IPSV often does not occur on its own. For example, studies from Mexico and the United States indicate that 40-52% of women who experience physical violence from an intimate partner have also been sexually coerced by that partner.
IPSV can also occur alongside mental/emotional abuse or financial abuse. This means that in addition to the IPSV experiences, victims may also experience the following: attempting to cut you off from friends and family, attempting or threatening to harm your children and/or pets, and /or control your finances.

Why is IPSV often overlooked? This could be due to the culture surrounding marriage, long-term partnerships, and romantic relationships in general.

Some see being in a relationship as automatic consent to sexual activity, when this is not the case.

Being in a romantic relationship, regardless of the amount of commitment or time spent in the relationship, does not mean that either partner now has to consent to sexual activity whenever the other partner wishes. .

Everyone deserves a healthy and safe relationship. Relationships like these can have signs such as:

  • You are not afraid to speak.
  • Both partners trust each other. No one needs to commit acts, give up friendships or sacrifice their privacy to “prove” their loyalty.
  • Both partners don’t need to be “monitored” all the time.
  • You feel safe disagreeing with your partner.
  • Your partner encourages you to pursue your goals.
  • Your limits are respected.

Ending an abusive relationship where sexual violence is occurring can be very difficult, but it is not something you have to do alone and you can do it whenever you are ready.
Seeking help from loved ones, law enforcement and sexual/domestic violence resource centers can help you take that first step when you are ready to do so.

If you have been the victim of intimate partner sexual violence or any other form of sexual violence, advocates are there and ready to help.

Contact Support Within Reach on our 24/7 hotlines: 1- (800) 708-2727 (Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Cass) or (866) 747-5008 (Itasca and Aitkin).

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Charlie McGregor is a Senior Advocate, Courts Advocate and Sexually Exploited Youth Coordinator at Support Within Reach.

Jessica C. Bell