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Sexual violence and abuse can be perpetrated using physical force, but it can also happen by means of coercion, including implied or explicit threats. Perpetrators of domestic abuse may use sexual violence as a tool to degrade or confuse their victim in order to "check" or maintain control.

Individuals who exist within an otherwise abusive and/or controlling relationship may struggle to recognise or accept that they have experienced sexual violence and abuse. Alternatively, "the rules" within their relationship may include forced acceptance of these behaviours.

Sexual violence within domestic abuse is a key indicator of risk and suggests significant coercive control. Sexual violence is included within the DASH Risk Assessment Tool, as a high-risk indicator.

Abuses can be explicit, or subtle, but are designed to dominate, degrade and isolate the victim. Behaviours may include:

  • Speaking about the victim in a sexually degrading way in front of others
  • Forcing or pressurising someone into sexual acts they have not consented to or feel powerless to decline
  • Refusing access to or use of birth-control or refusing to practice safe sex
  • Refusing affection or intimacy without the promise of sex
  • Being coerced to watch or engage in sexual activities with others
  • Being forced to look at or partake in the production of pornographic material

Consider sexual violence if you are aware of repeated infections, bruising in intimate areas; repeated pregnancies and complications.

For minority ethnic communities, sexual abuse may hold additional cultural taboos. This may result in additional barriers to victims disclosing and seeking help.

For more information and referral options see: