April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) – but what does that have to do with domestic violence? What is intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV)?
IPSV is any contact or activity with an intimate partner that makes a person feel uncomfortable or unsafe with the purpose of controlling through fear, threats, coercion, manipulation or violence, including, but not limited to:
- forced nudity
- forced viewing of pornography
- unwanted vaginal, oral, and/or anal penetration
interference with birth control
use and safe sex practices
- sexual degradation and humiliation
- sexual regulation and monitoring, such as forced inspection of undergarments and regulating partner’s clothing.
IPSV can be one of many forms of abuse that we see in the Power & Control wheel, or it can be the sole form of violence.
“Intimate partner sexual violence is part of a bigger picture of violence, abuse, and control where sexual assault and abuse get used as additional forms of battering” (Real Rape, Real Pain, 2006)
We see this all the time in our domestic violence cases: IPSV is the 13-year-old girl whose boyfriend coerces her into unwanted sexual activity through threats and intimidation. It’s the wife who complies with her husband’s sexual demands because of his explosive violence when she resists. It’s the man whose male ex stalks him and sexually assaults him. It’s the immigrant woman whose partner sexually degrades her and threatens to have her deported if she doesn’t cooperate. It’s the college student whose partner says she must have sex with him or he’ll post naked photos of her on the internet. It’s the woman whose boyfriend forces her to have sex with other men for money. IPSV shows up in many different ways, and can occur with or without the presence of physical violence at the time of the act or within the relationship.
“When it is the person you have entrusted your life to who abuses you, it isn’t just physical or sexual assault, it is a betrayal of the very core of your marriage or your person, your trust. If you’re not safe in your own home, next to your husband, where are you safe?” (Real Rape, Real Pain, 2006).
But there is hope – every single county in Maryland is served by a Comprehensive Sexual Violence Service Program. If you, or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner sexual violence, you can call any of these programs 24/7 and receive services and support. Our sister coalition, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, also has lots of resources.
If you want more information on IPSV, you can check out our November 2018 webinar recording: Behind the Bedroom Door – Sexual Assault in the Context of Domestic Violence Relationships.