In the challenges and misconceptions perceived in society at large today, the best way to become empowered in many situations is by educating ones self, family, friends, and the public in general.
With statistics demonstrating a national survey which found that 34% of women were victims of sexual coercion by a husband or intimate partner in their lifetime (1a & b), is itself explanatory in need to take action in showing people what to do to make a change.
So first, let’s be sure everyone truly understands what sexual coercion is and how serious it is. Any act against the will of another is wrong, period. It means non-consensual, be stated verbally, physically and implied (the individual may already feel intimidated). Any individual has a right to stop a sexual act, even after it has begun and that request be respected, without explanation. Everyone and anyone can change their mind for their own reason.
In defining sexual coercion we find it encompassed many behaviors and situations that include the perceived unwillingness to become involved in sexual acts by the victim. Probably the best specific definition thus far is, “the act of using pressure, alcohol or drugs, or force to have sexual contact with someone against his or her will; … tactics of post-refusal sexual persistence [used are] defined as persistent attempts to have sexual contact with someone who has already refused.”(2) It is understood that rape is forced penetration and can be one form of sexual coercion, however, with sexual coercion it is inclusive of kissing, petting, oral sex, caressing, genital touching and any form of sexually intended act or behavior that makes the victim uncomfortable.
Breaking this down to what this means is the act of using pressure to have sexual contact; such as physical, verbal, or emotional pressure. Experiencing physical pressure can be anything from slapping, hitting, kicking, or holding down the victim; continuing with any form of sexual act or behavior that the victim has already expressed to stop, which includes still trying to kiss him/her after they are trying to pull away. Verbal pressure involves yelling, name calling, tricking, and lying, blackmailing, badgering, and threatening to use physical force against the victim. When it comes to emotional pressure, it has been used much more frequently and is the most subtle. It includes threatening to break up for various reasons as a manipulation tactic, convincing the victim that he/she cares much more for them the he/she really does to ensure they stay with them or will do as the perpetrator desires to please them, wearing down the victim by using the same tactic over and over again, making the victim feel obligated to participate in sexual acts against their will and desire, guilting the victim into participating, using peer pressure such as indicating it is what others do or they are not behaving normally if they don’t, and even the perpetrator using their position of or implying a position of authority over the victim to pressure and /or force emotional submission.
Other tactics of sexual coercion are use of drugs or alcohol to have sexual contact. Uses of drugs and/or alcohol are the most frequently used by men and women to coerce another for sexual encounter. Let’s be clear however, that using club drugs to attain sex is not sexual coercion, it is rape. The perpetrator may consider that providing drugs or alcohol is opening an opportunity to getting what they want freely, however, getting someone drunk to have sex is sexual coercion.
Some ways to recognize sexual coercion and may be leading you into unwanted sexual acts are insincere compliments or overly extreme; buying gifts, money or doing large acts of service in a manner that make you feel you now “owe” them sexual favors; implying that “making love/having sex” is how to prove your love; putting you down or guilt trips unless you behave the way they desire, which leads to having sex when you don’t want to; indicating that others are doing it, so implying you should or aren’t normal/healthy if you don’t; limits or controls any aspect of your environment, friends, finances, family, social life, or work while blaming/guilting you into submission and dependency reporting neglect to his/her sexual needs.
“Individuals who are controlling of their partners are much more likely to also be physically assaultive, and this holds equally for both male and female perpetrators.” (3)
Here is a check list of questions to help clarify if you may be experiencing sexual coercion. If you answer yes to any of the following, you may be, and it is recommend seeking support:
– Do you feel pressure from you friends, date or partner/spouse?
– Have you ever experienced a sexual encounter where you left feeling scared, angry, confused/depressed or guilty?
– Have you ever had sex with a partner without a condom because they did not want to use one?
– Are there times when you have felt like you just did not want to have sex, but felt like you couldn’t or can’t say no?
You can get support and help by calling RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) at 1.800.656.HOPE; also in Macomb County, MI is Turning Point in Mount Clements, 24 hour Crisis line at: (586) 463-6990; and in Oakland County, MI is Common Ground, 24 hour Crisis line at: 1.800.231.1127.
“By raising awareness of the serious health consequences of forced sex, physicians and other health professionals can help change societal attitudes that condone or even encourage it. They can ensure that their own institutions do not tolerate coercion. They can also educate clients and help influence policies that guide medical, legal, and social responses to nonconsensual sex.” (4)
Learning to avoid sexual coercion by becoming aware of the above indicators, educating those around us and health professionals will make strides in the correct direct to support change from being victim, to survivor to non-transgression.
Also learn to trust your feelings and instincts, regardless of some first appearances or even presumed reputations. Recognize that you underlying discomfort in a situation in any way is often the correct one.
Ways to respond to sexual pressure:
– I really like you, but I’m just not ready.
– If you really care, you’ll respect my decision.
– I said no, I don’t have to explain.
In a situation where the pressure is escalated, get up and walk away; ask for help if necessary in that moment. Remember, you have a right to say no and stop at any given time, without explanation and be respected without any of your personal rights being taken from you or made to feel shamed, guilty, less than, mentally unstable, or not fulfilling a duty.
Avoid alcohol and drugs, as they cause you to have limited judgment, slow your responses, make it harder to resist sexual coercion situations, can make your partner more aggressive and may make you black and become very vulnerable, especially if a club/date rape drug is placed in your drink.
Additional resources and support, contact the above listed numbers or agencies that are highlighted which are hyperlinked to their websites.
“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne
(1a) American Bar Association – Commission on Domestic Violence: http://new.abanet.org/domesticviolence/Pages/Statistics.aspx#sexual_assault
(1b) Kathleen C. Basile, Prevalence of Wife Rape and Other Intimate Partner Sexual Coercion in a Nationally Representative Sample of Women, 17 Violence and Victims 511 (2002)
(2) Struckman-Johnson, Struckman-Johnson & Anderson, 2003, p. 76
(3) Felson, R., & Outlaw, M. (2007). The control motive and marital violence. Violence and Victims, 22 (4), 387-407.
Graham-Kevan, N. (2007). Men’s and women’s use of intimate partner violence: Implications for treatment programs. Presented July 9, 2007 at the International Family Violence and Child Victimization Research Conference, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
(4) The Science of Improving Lives: http://www.fhi.org/en/RH/Pubs/mera/sex_coercion_help.htm