23 April, 2021

Sexual abuse is most commonly committed by someone a survivor knows, including an intimate partner.

There are many terms to describe sexual abuse in a relationship, including intimate partner sexual violence, domestic violence, marital rape, and spousal rape. It can happen to anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

No matter the situation, it is never acceptable to engage in sexual activity without consent.


Examples of Sexual Abuse in a Relationship

Some examples of sexual abuse and harassment include:

  • Rape
  • Forcing someone to engage in sexual activity without consent (e.g. unwanted kissing, rubbing, or groping)
  • Coercing someone into sexual behaviour, such as threatening to withhold money or physically harm them if they don’t engage in sexual activity
  • Forcing someone to watch pornography
  • Using aggressive behaviour without consent during sexual activities
  • Taking and distributing sexual photos or videos without consent
  • Forcing someone to have unsafe sex
  • Using sex-related insults (e.g. “slut”)
  • Making unwanted sexual comments, suggestions, advances, or threats to another person.

Sexual assault in relationships is rarely an isolated incident, and it generally occurs alongside other types of abuse, such as physical and emotional abuse.


Sexual Abuse Indicators

Are you worried someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse in their relationship? These are some common signs that may indicate someone is living with sexual abuse or other domestic and family violence:

  • They’re noticeably less confident
  • They’re less social than they used to be
  • They seem tired or look like they’ve been crying
  • Their social media presence changes
  • They avoid talking about their relationship
  • Their partner is constantly contacting them while they’re with you
  • How they dress has changed significantly
  • They seem nervous or different around their partner.

We provide some advice to support a friend in an abusive relationship in this blog post.


Effects of Intimate Partner Sexual Violence

Research shows women who have been sexually assaulted by their partners experience several risks that are different and more serious than women who experience physical violence alone. These include:

  • A greater risk of being killed by their partner
  • Stress-related symptoms
  • Increased likelihood of gynaecological problems
  • Detrimental impacts to their emotional and mental health.


How to Get Support

If you or someone you know is living with sexual abuse or any type of domestic violence, help is available. You can call us on 1300 364 277 for guidance finding the right support for you, or learn about our Domestic and Family Violence Prevention service here.


1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732

DVConnect Womensline: 1800 811 811

DVConnect Mensline: 1800 600 636

Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 010 120

Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800

Lifeline: 13 11 14

If you believe you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 000.