For a woman in sexually abusive marriage, the effect can be devastating and recovery very slow for the following reasons:
- First is the fact that the rapist is a close acquaintance, and as in other forms of acquaintance rape, healing can be a very long and difficult process.
- The survivor may not recognize that she was sexually violated, and so may think that her feelings of fear, revulsion, depression or anger mean that she is crazy or somehow flawed.
- Because the perpetrator was at one time trusted and loved, the survivor is likely to deal with bitter feelings of betrayal and broken trust, and may feel she cannot trust herself to decide which people are safe and which are not.
- Feelings of grief and loss are common for victim/survivors of marital rape because the rape is a break in an important relationship.
- The survivor may still love her assailant, and may feel terribly torn and confused because of this.
- She may experience a great loss of self-esteem, and feel worthless because someone who “loved” her did something so horrible to her.
- The loss of control over her own life is always an issue for a sexual assault survivor, but when that assault takes place within marriage the loss is extreme.
- When the sexual violence is a part of a pattern of physical and emotional abuse the victim/survivor is likely to feel even more powerless because of the controlling behavior of her spouse.
- The survivor cannot go home to find safety and support because the cause of the trauma is in the home; there may seem to be no place of safety anywhere.
Why victims/survivors can’t break free from abusive marriages
- Lack of support from her family(especially her parents/siblings) and friends is also often a problem. Women from broken homes often suffer the most as there is no support base to draw help and strength from.
- Some other difficulties may arise for a woman if the assailant/husband is also the economic provider for the family, or the father of her children.
- For women in this situation, a decision to confront the perpetrator, report the crime or even try to escape would mean risking loss of income, loss of home and loss of children, not to mention the loss of a spouse.
- For some women, the ability to “keep a man” is important to feelings of self worth, and they may feel it necessary to put up with the violence.
Source: Barb Kiffe of the Dakota County Sexual Assault Services