Patterns of Sexual Abuse

Abusers often use sexual assaults and/or harassment as a tool against their partner. It can
be difficult for victims and survivors of sexual assault to discuss this form of abuse. The Lake County Crisis Center encourages survivors and their supporters to become aware of the patterns of sexual abuse. The following is a list of sexually abusive behaviors:

  • Abuser jokes about women and sex in the presence of the victim
  • Looks on women as sex objects
  • Pretends to be extremely jealous
  • Minimizes the victim’s feelings and needs regarding sex
  • Criticizes the victim in sexual terms
  • Touches the victim against the victim’s wishes (molestation)
  • Withholds sex and affection
  • Attaches sexual labels to the victim: “slut,” “whore,” “frigid”
  • Always demands sex
  • Forces the victim to undress as a form of humiliation (this may be in front of the
    children in the home)
  • Abuser is promiscuous with others
  • Forces the victim to witness his sexual acts with others
  • Uses threats to back up his demands for sex
  • Forces the victim to have sex with him or others
  • Forces sex after beating the victim
  • Abuser uses objects and/or weapons in sexual acts
  • Sadism, mutilation

Society in general holds certain attitudes about women and their proper roles. Some of
these attitudes and stereotypes work in favor of abusers and against the women who are their victims. The following list describes some of the negative social attitudes and practices, as well as the abuser’s actions that are supported by the stereotypes about women:

 Negative Social Attitudes

  • Rigid stereotypes and roles for men and women
  • Women trained, by custom and sometimes by law, to be dependent on men
  • The Cinderella-and-Prince-Charming myth
  • Barriers to women in employment, government, leadership
  • The view that men ought to control money, jobs, all the family’s major decisions
  • The family as an institution discourages any member from leaving or divorce
  • Police, doctors, schools, other institutions in society don’t always respond quickly to clues of abuse
  • Crime, poverty, and other factors make women fearful of living alone
  • Tendency to over prescribe drugs for women who are abused
  • The view that a woman’s role is to take care of the family, and therefore any
    family troubles are the fault of the woman and are her responsibility to “fix”
  • Family, friends tell the victim to try harder to be a better wife or partner
  • Faith community expectations that a wife keep her marriage vows “for better or for worse”
  • The view that children always suffer from divorce and keeping the family together
    is imperative