Intimate Partner Sexual Violence/Abuse (aka IPSV) – Part 1: What is it?


One of the individuals that approached me this past weekend and told me her story, was a young woman who was a victim of rape at the hands of her boyfriend.  She has continued to inspire me with her strength and fortitude to persevere despite not being believed and continued exposure to the young man that raped her.  She has also inspired me to look deeper into the incidence of IPSV and acknowledge my personal experience of being repeatedly raped during my ten year marriage.  What started out initially as one post devoted to IPSV has become potentially a 5 part series.

The most important thing to realize about IPSV is that one does not have to have physically fought off or said “no” for an act to be regarded as sexual assault. Tears or other expressions of discomfort are reasonable indicators that sexual activity is not desired.  Simply put, submission is NEVER the same as consent.

Perpetrators of IPSV use various methods to manipulate or force their partner into having sex.  They may use only one or a combination of the following to coerce you into submission:

  • Threats of violence towards you, your property, pets, family, or friends
  • Threaten to rape you if you don’t submit
  • Making you feel guilty for not submitting
  • Constant, repeated pressure to engage in sex
  • Interpersonal coercion; such as sulking, anger, blackmail, threats to leave or have affairs
  • Having affairs and flaunting it
  • Repeatedly making false accusations of affairs
  • Pressure to perform acts which make you uncomfortable
  • Use of physical violence or force such as hitting, choking, or use of weapons
  • Overpowering you with physical strength, restraining, or holding you down
  • Continuing a sexual activity after you have indicated you wish it to stop, even if there was initial consent
  • Withholding affection or freedom until demands of sexual activity are met; “You are not going anywhere until my demands are met.”
  • Sexual intercourse while asleep or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol
  • Forcing you to have unprotected sex
  • Filming or photographing sexual acts without consent
  • Making sexually degrading comments or name calling, alone or in front of others; “slut” “whore”
  • Verbally objectifying or degrading your body
  • Controlling what you wear; pressure to wear revealing lingerie
  • Minimizing past incidences of rape, denying it was rape or implying that you liked it
  • Denying sleep until sexual demands are met; sleep deprivation
  • Forcing you to choose one form of sexual activity in order to avoid something worse
  • Implying there is something “wrong” with you for choosing not to participate in certain acts; “You’re not normal.”
  • Demanding details on all past sexual partners; judging your sexual history

At some point in my years of therapy, someone actually acknowledged that I had experienced sexual abuse in addition to the verbal, emotional and physical domestic abuse I had experienced.  But that’s where any reference to the sexual abuse ended, let alone ever referring to it as rape.  It is very hard for me to reconcile what had become known to me as normal sex in my marriage to rape.  But it was rape.

The most common method used to pressure me into having sex was sleep deprivation.  I was expected to have sex 2 to 3 times a week.  Refusing to submit any less than that was almost unbearable.  I was constantly demeaned for my lack of interest in wanting to have sex and for not wanting to be more experimental.  There were times that I was pushed out of bed or spit on for not welcoming his advances with open arms.  I was called sexually degrading names on pretty much a daily basis.  I was constantly accused of touching myself in my sleep.  I would lay awake afraid, just waiting for the next wave of assault to begin.  Punching holes in the wall, throwing things, they were all ways for him to release his sexual tension when he did not have his expected release.  He boiled the entire problem in our marriage down to sex.  If I would just have sex, more often, was more into it, wore sexier underwear, allowed him to touch me more, etc., everything would be fine and he wouldn’t be so angry all the time.

After years of this abuse, I could barely stand to kiss him.  His touch literally made my skin crawl.  Yet I stayed.  He was my husband; I was supposed to have sex with him.  There were times, especially in the beginning, when I even wanted to have sex with him.  He never physically held me down to have sex.   Yet I had sex more often than I can count with tears streaming down my face.  I may never haven been physically forced, but I WAS forced, and that is by definition rape.

Rape is a crime.  It is NOT the victim’s fault.  As with other forms of domestic abuse, it is about power.  No matter how short your skirt is, whether you’re married or living together, how many times you’ve had sex with them before, or how many dinners they’ve bought for you; no one has the right to force you to engage in sexual activity.  And just because you didn’t scream or fight them off, doesn’t mean it isn’t rape.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to admit what has happened, even to your self.  It takes an even greater amount of courage to admit it to someone else.  I challenge you to break the silence.  Discuss the assault with a friend, a parent, a teacher, a counselor, a hotline, the police.  If we break the silence, we take back the power.

I also encourage others to learn more about IPSV and include it when addressing issues of domestic violence and dating violence.  IPSV is not just another form of abuse; it’s another form of rape.








  1. I have been told that I went though “marital rape” or IPSV (a new phrase I learned today). Still seeking out what everyone clearly sees but me. You said this was a 5 part posting? I will definitely be checking back to read more. Thank you for sharing. Definitely is making me remember some things that went on. He left last year, but unfortunately have a child together. Definitely will be taking my memories/emotions back to my support group to work out. Thank you.

  2. “Simply put, submission is NEVER the same as consent.” Thank you for this. Always difficult to put in words what he has dones. And “rape” seems like such a strong word… He always excused his behavior by telling him I never said “no.” Although I did at times, and he said he simply hadn’t heard me. And sometimes I refrained from saying anything, fearing the consequences. For a long time, I thought I should have made myself more cleaar. I should have said “no” louder and made sure he heard me. But I know it wouldn’t have made a difference. He would have justified his behavior some other way.

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