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6 Signs You’re In A Sexually Abusive Relationship

The tragedy of sexual abusive relationships

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN), a person is sexually abused every 98 seconds in the United States. Every 8 minutes, the victim is an underage person.

Only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators of sexual abuse are jailed or imprisoned.

Statistics are helpful to a point, but there is no number – no words – that can adequately describe the tragedy that is sexual abuse.

And sexual abuse is not always apparent. Many abusers are cunning manipulators.

It isn’t uncommon for a victim of sexual abuse to experience a period of self-admonishment; faulting themselves for not recognizing the abuse.

Especially in a romantic partnership.

Who would suspect their partner to commit such an atrocity?

The truth is that sexual abuse by intimate partners is far more prevalent than most people realize.

If you happen to be within this group, it is essential that you understand it is not your fault. Again, it is not your fault.

“Sexual narcissism can be defined as a grandiose sense of one’s sexual prowess which, in the mind of the sexual narcissist, entitles him or her to engage in acts of emotional and physical manipulation at the partner’s expense.”~ Preston Ni, M.S.B.A.

Before we list six common signs of sexual abuse, it is imperative to understand that there is a number coping resources for victims. We will list a few of these resources shortly.

6 Signs of Sexual Abuse

1. Anxiety

Most people who suffer from anxiety disorders don’t know why. However, for sexual abuse victims, this tension is directly attributable to the loss of bodily sovereignty. In other words, the sense of control over their own body has been taken away.

In the context of a partnership, this anxiety will surface under some often; including before, during, and after intercourse. Some victims become fearful and may suffer panic attacks, agoraphobia, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.)

2. Depression

This sign is also related to the loss of bodily autonomy. Victims usually develop some degree of depression; they may feel despondent, hopeless, or suffer from an impaired sense of self-worth. These feelings often range from mild to debilitating. Consider this finding by psychologist Ellen McGrath:

“In almost every case of significant adult depression, some form of abuse was experienced in childhood, either physical, sexual, emotional or, often, a combination.”

3. A sense of inferiority

Abusers who target their partner do so out of the need to feel superior and in control – this is the narcissistic side of sexual abuse.

Every action of the abuser stems from their own inadequacies and insecurity. As such, it is common for the abuser to “target their partners for ridicule, shame, sarcasm, and overall marginalization,” says Preston Ni.

Imparting a sense of inferiority is outright emotional abuse which, subsequently, becomes sexual abuse.

4. Fear of reprisal

A fear of retaliation often stems from being uncomfortable about the situation. For example, we’re all a bit hesitant when trying something new in the bedroom; but engaging in a sexual act and feeling uncomfortable with it, and becoming fearful at the thought of telling your partner about your discomfort are two entirely different things.

It’s a sign of emotional and sexual abuse.

5. Lack of pleasure

Sex is supposed to be intimate, loving, and fun. Under normal circumstances, two adults engage in sex because it’s enjoyable. For the victim of sexual abuse, there is no pleasure to be had from sex with their “partner.”

When a person is too absorbed in their own satisfaction, they inevitably demonstrate little to no concern for others well-being. It becomes impossible, then, to obtain pleasure from any romantic activity, sex or otherwise.

6. Feeling pain during sex

There is an immense difference between dirty talk and roughing it in the bedroom – between two consenting adults – and sexual abuse. Experiencing physical and emotional pain during a (typical) sexual encounter isn’t the norm.

It’s common for someone who is being sexually abused to experience both physical and emotional abuse. In fact, it is impossible to experience one without the other.


Because the victim often can’t tell what hurts more: physical pain from the sex or the emotional hurt that someone they once loved created.


If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual abuse, please contact local law enforcement or the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline (NSATH) at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Here’s what you can expect when calling NSATH:

  • Confidential support from a trained staff member
  • Support finding a local health facility that is trained to care for survivors of sexual assault and offers services like sexual assault forensic exams
  • Someone to help you talk through what happened
  • Local resources that can assist with your next steps toward healing and recovery
  • Referrals for long term support in your area
  • Information about the laws in your community
  • Basic information about medical concerns
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