Intimate Partner Assault

Among college students, studies show that nine out of ten sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim in some capacity—friend, a date, an acquaintance, a classmate, a family member, a caretaker, a coworker, or an intimate partner.¹

Statistics have shown that a significant number of those who experience a sexual assault are sexually assaulted by an intimate partner. One study shows that of people who reported sexual violence, 64% of women and 16% of men were raped, physically assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner. This includes a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, or date.1

Recognizing Sexual Assault

In intimate relationships, sexual assault can become one of the many abusive tactics a person will use to maintain power and control over a partner. Often, it is difficult for a person who has experienced sexual assault in these situations to recognize his or her experience as sexual assault. Indeed, sexual assault or sexual coercion can often be only a part of a larger pattern of other forms of abuse that are taking place in the relationship. A person who experiences sexual assault or coercion in their relationship can also be experiencing emotional, verbal, psychological or physical abuse as well.

Sexual assault or coercion within an intimate relationship can take many forms. A few examples:

  • demeaning comments about a person's sexuality or sexual performance
  • pressure to engage in sexual activity
  • pressure to engage in sexual acts with which a person is uncomfortable
  • threats (ex. I might have to get sex somewhere else if I don't get it from you)
  • guilt trips (ex. I am so attracted to you that I can't help myself, I need sex to relieve stress, etc.)
  • attacking sexual areas of the body
  • performing sexual acts without the other partner's consent

Often, because of the control and power that one person has over another person in an unhealthy relationship, it may be harder for someone experiencing intimate partner sexual assault to come forward and seek help. This person could be caught in a cycle of violence and abuse that often happens in abusive relationships. He or she may feel isolated, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, afraid of the partner, afraid to leave, and/or depressed.

It is important that indiviudals experiencing intimate partner violence receive the same compassion and care as other survivors of sexual assault. In fact, maintaining safety and seeking help could be more complicated for victims of intimate partner sexual assault. For more information on unhealthy or abusive relationships, please contact the [[emgarrison, Health Promotion Specialist]], Avalon's Helpline, or the Statewide Hotline or visit The Red Flag Campaign to learn what you can do to help a friend who might be experiencing abuse in a relationship.

1 Fisher, S., Cullen, F., Turner, M., 2000. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.