Sexual Abuse in Relationships
There is a common misconception that if you are in a relationship, you cannot be the victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault by your spouse. This is not true. Whether or not you are in a relationship, if someone commits an act against you that meets California’s definition of sexual abuse, you have legal rights and options.
Sexual abuse in a relationship is never your fault. You may be feeling many different emotions, including fear, guilt, and confusion as a victim. It is critical, however, to recognize sexual abuse in your relationship and to take steps to protect yourself physically, psychologically, and legally. Read on to learn more about sexual abuse in relationships and when to contact a Los Angeles sexual abuse attorney.
Can Your Spouse Sexually Abuse You?
Yes, you can be sexually abused by your spouse. Sexual abuse is still a crime in California if it takes the form of domestic abuse or violence between two spouses (including in a marriage). California’s definition of sexual assault is any type of unwanted sexual act, including sexual touching, fondling or rape.
You might be the victim of sexual abuse by your spouse if you did not give your consent, you were under the age of 18, you were intoxicated, or you were manipulated or threatened into the sexual activity. Your spouse might also be guilty of committing sexual abuse against you in conjunction with other forms of abuse, including physical or mental abuse.
What Is Marital Rape?
Even if a couple is married, one spouse can commit sexual abuse and assault crimes against the other. California Penal Code Section 262 defines rape when the victim is the spouse of the perpetrator as sexual intercourse accomplished against the victim’s will by means of force, violence, duress or threats. Marital rape can also occur if the victim is prevented by resisting by an intoxicating substance known by the accused, or when the victim was unconscious.
Examples of Sexual Abuse in Relationships
There is a great deal of misinformation regarding sexual abuse in relationships. Many people are under the belief that since they are willingly in a relationship, they have given up the right to say no to unwanted sexual contact. Regardless of the relationship between two people, certain acts constitute sexual abuse or sexual assault in California. These acts include:
- Unwanted sexual touching
- Sexual interactions without your consent
- Coercing, threatening or intimidating you into sexual acts
- Forced sexual acts through physical harm or emotional manipulation
- Taking advantage of you while you were intoxicated or unconscious
If you are not sure whether an incident that occurred between you and your spouse constitutes sexual abuse, speak to a professional, such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Calling the hotline can put you in touch with trained and experienced professionals who can explain the definition of sexual abuse and help you protect yourself.
How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship
If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 to report domestic violence. Keep in mind, however, that once you involve the police, they can proceed with a case even if you don’t press charges. If you are afraid of what your spouse might do if you report sexual abuse, take steps to protect your personal safety first.
Tell a trusted friend or family member about the crime. This person can help connect you to resources that can get you out of a dangerous situation, such as offering you a safe place to stay or finding a shelter in your community. Start saving money, if possible, so that you have a way out. Then, as soon as you can leave, go to your safehouse (or an emergency room if you have physical injuries from assault). Then, report what happened to law enforcement.
Once you are sure of your physical safety, pursue legal recourse against your abuser by contacting a sexual abuse lawyer. An attorney can assist you in finding helpful resources, keeping you and your loved ones safe, and holding an abuser accountable for his or her actions – even if your abuser is an ex-spouse.