Sexual Coercion – The invisible rape

We need to talk about sexual abuse/violence in all its wider spectrum and one form that isn’t discussed much and that has survivors suffering the aftermath and symptoms without being able to give language to their experience and feeling like they have no right to feel the way they feel, is coercive rape. 

Coercive rape is just that, it isn’t sex because the consent is fabricated, if you manipulate someone this isn’t seduction it’s exploiting them for your own gain, it’s getting them to change their behaviour and actions.
If saying no isn’t respected then a yes cannot be valid and if that yes is worn down, is given due to fearing someone will leave a relationship if you don’t give them sex or worse, if the yes is achieved under emotional duress, with constant pressure before or after refusal this is coercion. It is not enough for us to discuss the fact that no means no, we must also see how the yes is obtained and when the yes is invalid.

We need to start looking at freely obtained consent but more than that, a freely obtained enthusiastic yes and not arrogantly assume consent or put the responsibility on someone to tell us to stop or say no. If someone respects you, if they are attuned to you and your body language as they should be then they can see if you are uncomfortable and stop to ask or stop altogether to be safe. Looking away, crying, saying not now, looking distant and vacant and other signs are all no or signs for someone to stop.

Abusers use this tactic because it’s not spoken much off, because it goes ignored and because it’s not given the severity it deserves. They know they can get away with it. There is no law as of yet to tackle this.
Sexual coercion is abusive, and it can causes sexual trauma. In the same way, that attempted rape can be just as traumatic as if a rape itself took place.

Sexual coercion is unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way. Coercion can make you think you owe sex to someone; it can be someone trying to get you tipsy or drunk so that it makes it harder for you to refuse them, it can be someone pressurising you when you don’t feel ready, not in the mood or to have unprotected sex. It can be verbally egging someone on or using social pressure such as: everyone is doing it, it has to happen sometime, you can’t be a virgin all your life, you’re old enough, what’s wrong with you? Others like it, others get off at this, come on, you’ll enjoy it once we get started, it’s not like we haven’t had sex before…it can be threats such as: I’ll leave you if you don’t, I’ll tell everyone about it…threatening emotional blackmail. It can be achieved through using guilt: If you loved me you would, come on it’s been so long, you’ve led me on, I’m aroused now you can’t just stop now…

Like emotional abuse it can be hard to identify or to pinpoint because it is not always blatant. As mentioned, it can be persistent attempts, or using a relationship to make you feel obligated.

It’s important to remember that no matter how it takes place, the bottom line is that you really didn’t want to have sex. You know it isn’t classified (by law) as rape since you “gave in”, or said yes (even when you didn’t want it but felt you should or had too) but you still feel violated. There is a reason why you feel violated even if you can’t explain it and that’s because of the coercive aspect.

Consent is enthusiastic not reluctant, and this is what we should be aiming for and accepting nothing less, it is not enough to have a “yes”. Sexual coercion leaves one confused after the experience. Sex doesn’t leave anyone confused when it’s wanted and enjoyable when it is not uncomfortable. In this situation someone isn’t respecting boundaries.

Sexual coercion is on the same spectrum as sexual assault and rape itself and I would go as far as classifying it as rape, because if a no is not respected a yes can never be valid and so consent is lacking. Even in cases where one can change their mind, from a no to a yes, it’s important to note that you can only change your mind and agree to sex when you know that both your yes and no are respected: without pressure, shame or guilt or fear. In the same way someone doesn’t pressure someone to change their yes into a no with sex, we should also accept no as a valid answer, we shouldn’t accept it as a right for someone to have to owe anyone sex.

Sexual coercion is damaging, and it can equally result in trauma and like trauma lead to PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, low self-esteem, affect sexuality as occurs with survivors who are physically raped, because abuse is abuse no matter how it is done.

It can happen to anyone, it is also important to note that adults can also be groomed, another subject that isn’t much talked off that can make adults feel alone or shamed. We are all vulnerable no matter who we are or how old we are.

Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with someone to earn trust with the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or even trafficking, again it’s a manipulative tactic of abuse.

The grooming process is much similar to how an adult grooms a child, it usually starts with a friendship in order to gain trust and then trying to take the relationship further by sexualising the friendship, it is believed to be known as ‘mate crime’ due to this. It can make it hard and confusing for a victim to identify the grooming from a romantic relationship and it starts with the abuser trying to disable their victim’s boundaries and eventually violating those boundaries and the victim. This is a slow process and can even take many years before the victim is hurt.
This can happen in person or with the world of the internet, now online. Of course, the motive isn’t always to sexually abuse someone, it can take other forms of exploitation such as material, financial, radicalisation.

The abuser will make the victim believe they have a ‘special’ bond.

Love bombarding is another form of grooming when the abuser becomes a partner and the early stages of a relationship. It is a manipulative tactic once again and emotional abuse but hard to spot because it involves flattery, gifts, attention, extravagant gestures to the point the victim believes to have met their perfect match and that they are deeply in love, yet the deeply in love is with an image and not the real person. It’s easy for us to fall in love with words and attention. It makes us feel special and that’s where the hook and appeal and being seduced comes in. It may sound or seem romantic but there is nothing romantic about love bombarding, it’s aim is for the abuser to gain power and control over their target.

Sexual coercion is sexual abuse, you should never feel forced into anything that you’re not comfortable with or don’ t feel like doing. Rape and sexual abusedon’t have to be achieved through physical means and physical force and it’s time that the world and people understood this and that we don’t accept anything that lacks respect or violates boundaries. It’s time we talked about this, we fight to make the changes, we change our own behaviours, and we address this.

For more knowledge, please consider purchasing the book: Shattering the myths of abuse: Validating the pain; Changing the culture.https://www.amazon.com/Antonella-Sonia-Zottola/e/B07PQ8YNHT%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

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