Coercive Sex In Marriage: Her Story
After sharing the details of my abuse story hundreds of people have contacted me, many of which described their own stories of abuse. And when a friend of mine reached out and shared about her abusive marriage that she had endured, I was heartbroken. The relationship was abusive in many, many ways including being sexually abusive.
When she sent me a piece she had written describing what it felt like to experience coercive sex (also known as marital rape(1)) by her spouse and asked me to publish it for her, I instantly said, “yes”.
She asked to post anonymously as she is still healing and navigating a divorce. However, below are the powerful words from the depths of her soul, just as she has written them:
I was told that in order to heal my marriage I had to have sex.
I was told that “withholding” was against God’s will.
I was told that I needed to have sex every night so God could heal what man had broken.
I said no and was accused of having an affair. I said no and was told I wasn’t respecting the covenant.
When I stuck to my boundaries I was accused of being too angry. He said I made him feel bad.
It’s not physically unpleasant, so it must be ok. I guess.
I was told that he had needs. That my refusal was ungodly. That my desire for every other night, or my occasional desire to wait even longer, was not according to God’s will.
I was told that he would be nicer to me if I had sex. I was told he would be more helpful with the children if I had sex.
I said clearly: “I want to read and go to sleep tonight.” He lie next to me. He peppered me with questions. He wouldn’t stop. He watched me. “What are you reading? What’s it about? Are you sure that’s good for you to read? I think it’s damaging your mind. We need to pray. Who do you want to pray for? Let’s just do a short prayer. We can pray for each of the children...” And on and on and on.
My voice is gone. My words mean nothing. My insides scream.
In my sleep I did scream. Maybe I told him to leave me alone. Maybe I told him I was done talking. He decided it was indicative of mental illness. He was concerned.
He took and he took and he took. He didn’t care when I made it clear I didn’t want to. As long as I would. And one day I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t go to the social events. I couldn’t go to church. I didn’t get up the next day either.
I called a pastor. I asked God. I didn’t want to sin. I didn’t want to “deny my husband his marital rights”.
I can’t do this anymore. What is wrong with me?
He seemed confused. “Something happened to you that day. Something was damaging.”
Yes, something did happen. Something happened over months.
Someone made me feel like a whore.
It’s my fault.
Too many times society and particularly the Church will not recognize coercive sex in marriage as being the damaging sexual abuse it truly is.
But marriage doesn’t take away a person’s right to consent or not consent to sex (2). The “I do” at the altar is not an “I do” to limitless sex without boundaries. You still do not owe them a touch.
We need to shine the light on marital rape (3). Rape does not always look like physical force by a stranger. Sometimes it is as silently dehumanizing as steady coercion from a trusted partner.
There may be otherwomen out there who have had this (or something similar) happen to them and have not been able to pinpoint why they feel the way they do. We want you to know that this is not ok. This is not love.
Today, my friend realizes this abuse was not her fault. She is safe and taking steps towards health and healing.
Please leave a comment with a word of encouragement for this amazingly strong woman of valor and feel free to email me if you’d like to send her a personal message. firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: If you need help visit DomesticShelters.Org to find a hotline and 24/7 services near you.
(1) The United States Department of Justice defines rape as: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
(2) Legitimate consent is the presence of an enthusiastic “yes” (verbal or non-verbal) void of manipulation, threats, or head games, not just the absence of a “no”. See, What Consent Looks Like and YesMeansYes: Consent.
(3) The National Center For Victims of Crimes states that marital rape has been illegal in all fifty states in the U.S. since 1993. In many other countries, it is not illegal but it is no less wrong or damaging.