Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Coercive sexual abuse in a marriage

Very early in our relationship, I had surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. A week later I was still wearing pyjamas in bed, and my husband's pattern of behaviour emerged for the first time: 'I know it's irrational but...' I know it's irrational, but I feel that by wearing pyjamas you are putting barriers between us. I know it's irrational, but I understand sex as love, so I feel like you don't love me. I know it's irrational, but unless we have sex every 3 or 4 days, I feel vulnerable and unloved. I know it's irrational, but my first marriage ended because my wife wouldn't be intimate with me after our daughter was born. I know it's irrational, but I feel like that's how a couple shows they care.

Sometimes there was no disclaimer, just self-righteous fury. 'You promised me sex today: how dare you make promises you don't intend to keep?' Days of sulking and quiet rage. It was so irrational, so impervious to reason, laughter or emotion, that I put up with it. Made myself announce on the third day whether or not we would have sex. Felt sick with nerves on the fourth day and watched his face and shoulders when I had to say no, no sex today. I drank a lot to make it bearable.

But then it got less bearable. Last year, his mother died, and shortly afterwards I started having flashbacks to my own history of sexual assault and gang rape - things I had never forgotten, but which I'd carefully flattened out and walked around. Things I'd blamed myself for because it was easier than facing how powerless I'd been at the time. I told him. Half an hour later he said, 'This is going to have an impact on our sex life.'

Over the next six months he woke me up screaming 3 in the morning because I had put barriers between us by having an extra blanket in bed. He threw mugs across the kitchen and raged. Announced calmly one evening that I had to tell him everyday if we were going to have sex later, because men have needs and that way he would know in advance that he had to 'take care of himself.' Told me that I needed to get some rest because he wanted sex the next day and didn't want any excuses. Talked through fantasies of me being gang raped while he acted them out on my body and told me I was a whore who enjoyed it. Saved my facebook conversations with other people into documents, then denied having done it. It must have been the drink.

Finally, the thing that broke me, he put together a dossier of all the electronic exchanges we'd ever had, asked me to sit with him, and told me that he didn't recognise himself anymore. I agreed. Only it turned out that he meant that I had driven him insane. Everything was my fault. I wasn't tactile enough; didn't hug him enough. Made him feel insecure. I slept in another room that night, woke before him, got my son to school in the morning, and then ran in the clothes I was wearing.

I found it very hard to understand what was going on, what was really going on, for a very long time - even when the panic attacks started; even when I began planning to kill myself to get away. I still have to fight against the idea that this doesn't count as 'real' abuse; that I am not a good enough or clean enough victim. He never hit me, after all; he never held me down. Then again, he didn't have to. I'm posting this so that other women can read it and realise that they don't have to live this way.


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10 thoughts on “Coercive sexual abuse in a marriage

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I had a very similar experience in a relationship that lasted 20 years and I too feel guilty thinking of it as abuse, but it is abuse.


  • Corine says:

    Just long distance hugs if you want them. Thank you for speaking out.

  • JL says:

    That is abuse – and I would say very severe abuse.He used your experiences of rape and sexual abuse against you. He created an atmosphere of terror to control you. He called you names, and from your description of ‘acting out [his] fantasies’ of gang rape on your body I would say he raped you. (He certainly had sex with you when he knew damn well you didn’t want it).

    Well done for getting away, and well done for finding the courage to tell your story to others. I wish you all the best for the future, and I hope you know important what you have posted here today is.


  • Hecuba says:

    This man used psychological manipulation against you which is another form of male sexual violence because he believes men have the innate sacrosanct right of expecting ‘female sexual servicing as and when they desire irrespective of their female partner’s bodily autonomy.’ I’ve yet to read or hear of any male spontaneously combusting due to lack of bodily access to a female.

    He did subject you to violence because he threw mugs across the kitchen and raged at you. He was clearly threatening you with male violence and knew exactly what he was doing which was to intimidate you into submitting to his male demands.

    Marital rape is now a crime in the UK but unfortunately the number of married men who are convicted of this crime is almost zero because male pseudo sex right to female partners continues to be widely viewed as ‘sacrosanct male sex right.’

    Yes this male did rape you because he knew you didn’t want sexual contact with him and he ignored your refusal. That is very hard I know to accept, because he is very cunning and everything is about him and his needs; his male rights. Seeing through these male lies is very, very hard because we women are socialised from minute we are born to accept mens’ lie that we only exist to serve men 24/7.

    I highly recommend reading ‘Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. Lundy Bancroft has worked with men who whilst they do not commit physical violence against their female partners, nevertheless do commit psychological violence. Bundy also discusses the men who believe male pseudo sex right to female partners is sacrosanct once a woman marries the man/and or commences a long-term sexual relationship with him.

    • Anon says:

      Dear Hercuba,

      I agree with most of what you say except that the reason for so few convictions is the difficulty faced when there are no witnesses, as is usually the case, and it is a case of ‘he said, she said’. Under criminal law, the burden of proof is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ which is a very high standard. There are women who are suing under trespass to the person in the civil courts where the burden of proof is ‘ on a balance of probabilities ‘ which is a much lower standard that in the criminal court and that is because the punishment ( fines not imprisonment) is less harsh . The process is expensive. What is needed is for more women to speak out so that these frequent mysoginist victim-blaming myths which exist in the judiciary/the media/ politics are challenged and remedies can be looked at that both help women who have had to endure this and hold perpetrators to account for their actions so that there is a very clear message that it is not ok and the assailant will be punished. We need to start speaking out so that it is no longer a secret that nobody wants to talk about.

  • Anon says:

    Dear Anon, what you had to endure is horrific. You got out and you were brave enough to tell the story. I was sleep raped for nearly 3 years and my ex husband used extensive coercion to intimidate me and keep me ‘under control’. It’s time for us to speak out so that the true extent of what happens in a severely abusive coercive relationship leads to judicial change.

  • Judith Harrop says:

    Hopefully writing this gave you a more clear understanding that this was not your fault, that this was his controling and abusive behaviour. I dont have the language of previous supporters but i can see it was his problem and not your own behaviour which caused you this pain.
    I hope the support you will receive here convinces you. I hope you find some peace x x x

  • Beth says:

    I was so in love and so naive that I thought at the time I would be sound asleep and be awakened to him already inside me, going at it, was his desire and love for me. I only recently learned about sleep rape. An act of hate.

  • Crystal says:

    I just got out of a severe gas lighting situation and also this exact thing, SAME WORDS EXACTLY said to me! I told him I felt like he was molesting me when we “made love” (he insisted it be called) and he got so angry at me, like it was wrong to tell him that when he kept insisting! The CONSTANT behaviors and guilt trips 24 hours a day because he quit his job and I couldn’t keep a job because of his passive aggressive ways. . Wow it was horrible. .. and the things he said to me about it in front of my son. .. I totally get this and I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this :'(

  • Anonymous says:

    I can relate….for 10 years he “expected” sex daily. 7 days a week sometimes multiple times a day. It got so bad he kept a calendar in his truck to use against me in an argument. He wanted to “prove” to me how many times that month. Sick people do this. Then it turned into I was only doing it because I wanted something not because it’s what I really wanted to do. Then the threats if you don’t want to do it my way then I will find someone that does and he did….someone half his age. When I caught him, he said “I told you I would find someone else”. Sociopath/pshychopath/narcissist. So glad to have that chapter and pressure over. Hugs to all of you!