Ask Ava

Ask Ava, Episode 89: "What does sexual violence look like in a relationship?"

December 09, 2021 Ask Ava Season 1 Episode 89
Ask Ava
Ask Ava, Episode 89: "What does sexual violence look like in a relationship?"
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 89: "What does sexual violence look like in a relationship?"

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On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about what sexual violence in relationships looks like.

This is Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services to survivors at no charge for over 40 years.  

Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, what does sexual violence look like in a relationship?”

Jess: Today we’re joined by Safe+Sound Somerset trained volunteer, Ella Blank, who goes to the University of Maryland.

Ella: Hi! I’m Ella and I’m happy to be here.

Jess: Thanks for joining us, Ella. Um, so sexual violence is one kind of abuse that teens and adult might experience from a partner. It’s nonconsensual – meaning both people did not fully agree to the action, or it was done under pressure or threat. Sexual violence can be many actions, whether the person is in a relationship or not. And violence is all about gaining and keeping power and control – it’s not about sex. It can be anything from sexual harassment to assault, including rape, as well as other actions.

Ella: Right, and sexual violence isn’t always physical. If a partner uses guilt, threats, shame or fear to pressure sexual acts onto a person, that is a form of sexual assault. If your partner is taking out anger or frustration with you through sex, or overall using sex as a form of power or control in a relationship, this can be a form of sexual abuse. It is important to remember that while engaging in sexual acts, consent is key and there should be firm yes from both parties.

While looking at this question, it is important to realize that just because someone is “in a relationship,” it does not give them the right to assume your consent with different sexual activities, or assert power over them through sex.

Jess: Definitely. Sometimes people think that rape can’t happen in committed relationships, marriages, or partnerships. But this is false - rape can happen in a relationship including marriage or partnerships. Though, different states in the United States even today continue to treat marital rape differently from other forms of rape. Most often, survivors of sexual assault know the person involved. 

Ella: Some examples of sexual violence within a relationship could look like:

  • Ignoring your partners feelings when it comes to sex
  • Holding down or restraining someone during unconsensual [nonconsensual] sex.
  • Forcing or coercing someone into having sex
  • Demanding sex when your partner is not in the mood, tired, sick or injured
  • Using forms of manipulation to gain sex by saying something like, “You have to do this or else I’ll leave you…”

Jess: Absolutely. And if you have experienced any of these things, whether you are in a relationship or not, know that sexual violence is not your fault. And you matter – if you have questions or you’re looking for free services, you can contact Safe+Sound Somerset, either in the immediate aftermath of the incident or later on. 

Ella: You might also think about opening up to a trusted adult about the experience for emotional support.

To speak with an expert about dating violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential hotline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning. 

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