Sexual abuse in marriage – what should a Christian wife do?

Paul warns believers to flee sexual immorality. As believers, our bodies are parts of Christ, and we know that God values our bodies highly because He will raise our bodies from the dead, just as He raised Christ.

(1 Cor 6:13-20  New Living Translation)  ….you can’t say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead. Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.” But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. [Emphasis added.]

In verse 15, Paul says Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never!

The word ‘prostitute’ is the feminine noun porne, a word that has a masculine equivalent, pornos. When the masculine word pornos occurs in the New Testament (1 Cor 5:9-11; 6:9; Eph 5:5; 1 Tim 1:10; Heb 12:16; 13:4; Rev 21:8; 22:15) it is generally translated as immoral person, sexually immoral person, or fornicator – without the masculine gender of the word being explicit in the English. This is standard translation practice, because Greek uses masculine nouns to denote generic (any gender) subjects.

But since our purpose here is to assist wives who are sexually abused by their husbands, let us recast Paul’s illustration in verse 15 so that the genders are reversed. Let’s imagine that Paul is talking about a Christian woman who is being joined with a sexually sinful man, a pornos. This is a legitimate way to apply Scripture. And in Paul’s marriage teaching in 1 Cor. 7 — which immediately succeeds the passage quoted above — he goes to great lengths to make it clear that whatever applies to men, applies to women too.

  • Should a woman take her body, which is part of Christ, and let it be joined to a man who is sexually immoral?
  • Should she let her husband commit sexually sinful, pornographic acts upon her?
  • Should she allow her husband to commit sexual sins upon and inside her body?

Never! For the Scriptures say: “The two are united into one.” But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For a man’s sexual immorality is a sin against his own body. And when a man sexually abuses a Christian woman he becomes ‘one flesh’ with her — and so he befouls her with his sexual immorality. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So honor God with your body.

And to honor God, you are not only permitted, you are urged to flee from that man who sexually abuses you.

This passage talks about how no other sin affects the body so deeply as sexual sin does. That is why it is so hard to heal from sexual abuse. It pollutes the body, mind and soul at mysteriously deep levels: the cellular level, the nerve pathways, the emotions and psyche, almost every part of the person is polluted and contaminated.

But there is healing in Christ.

Take care of yourself, especially if this post has brought up bad memories.

And in case you are wondering “What IS sexual abuse in marriage? What kind of acts does it comprise?” I’m giving a link here to a previous post Do You Tell Others About the Sexual Abuse? which defines and describes sexual abuse in marriage. Be aware that if you read that post, it may bring up painful memories.

You might also like to check out Aphrodite Wounded [Internet Archive link], a site which provides secular support for survivors of intimate partner sexual assault, and their supporters. It has heaps of material, including this gem:

Partner rape is real rape.
It may happen once or many times.
It may involve coercive pressure or battery and torture.
It happens in very violent relationships, or in those that are otherwise respectful.
Women are raped by men they love.

[June 23, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to June 23, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to June 23, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to June 23, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (June 23, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


Further reading

Do you tell others about the sexual abuse?

The Bible’s view on pre-marital sex — is the remedy always “get married”?

Pornography as fuel for abuse

The unique nature of sexual abuse makes its abuse uniquely destructive

32 thoughts on “Sexual abuse in marriage – what should a Christian wife do?”

  1. Never heard this Scripture interpreted this way but this is essentially what I came to believe. That the more vile, the more unclean my husband became, the more offensive the physical side of the marriage became to a holy God.

    1. Thanks, Allpeople Gifts, for reminding me of these wonderful posts by Danni. I read them all years ago, but haven’t revisited them since then. I’ve made a comment which gives links to Danni’s sexual abuse posts on my previous post Do you tell others about the sexual abuse? –– so readers can find them there too.

      As well as Danni’s post Is It Rape When Your Husband Does It? [Internet Archive link] that you mentioned above, which is Danni’s own story of being raped repeatedly by her husband, I searched through her articles about “Abuse in the Christian Home” and found these ones that particularly deal with sexual abuse:

      Does Rape Feel Good? [Internet Archive link] — This explains that if a person has an orgasm while being raped, that does not mean they enjoyed being raped, or “it wasn’t really rape”.

      The “Not Rape” Epidemic [Internet Archive link]

      What Happens When Someone Is Sexually Assaulted, Series

      I’m putting a link on our Resources page to the list of all Danni’s articles about “Abuse in the Christian Home”. Thanks once again, AllPeople Gifts! We want to make this site a treasure trove of good resources, and I really appreciate your research and suggestions.

      1. You are more than welcomed, Barbara, and I’m glad that you have also found the information on her site to be of help to survivors of abuse in religious homes.

        Another site that I personally think is really quite helpful is that of “Luke173Ministries” (found at Luke 17:3 Ministries Inc [Internet Archive link]) — which focuses on topics such as that of setting boundaries and limits, forgiveness, Godly confrontation, healing, recognizing reprobates and cutting ties with them, etc.

        Luke 17:3 Ministries Inc [Internet Archive link]

        The Silent Partner & The Silent Majority [Internet Archive link]

        Reprobates & Cutting Ties [Internet Archive link]

        Forgiveness – Not Necessarily What You Think [Internet Archive link]

        Satan’s Evil Minion – The Unredeemable Reprobate [Internet Archive link]

        Is God Really Telling Us To Honor Abusive Parents? [Internet Archive link]

        FAQ About Abusive, Narcissistic, And Psychopathic Relatives [Internet Archive link]

        Narcissistic Predicaments [Internet Archive link]

      2. My friend’s husband, I believe, is sexually abusing her. She has wrestled with sex drive for their 32 years of marriage. Although it doesn’t come naturally for her, she has always tried very hard. She has never withheld sex from him, and has at times done things and tried things that make her sick at heart, all to honor her husband and to bring glory to God. He has recently gone on a rampage about her lack of drive, and has booked a hotel room for this weekend. He has purchased toys and things and is demanding that she go and be subjected to “whatever it takes” for her to desire him. I’m scared for her! She can’t stop crying! She loves him so much, but she is scared. Is this abuse?

      3. If she is crying and doesn’t want to do this thing and he is not showing compassion for her pain and fear, that strongly suggests abuse. When one spouse does not respect the other’s “No” in the bedroom, that goes right against what Paul said about the marriage bed being a place of mutuality and equal authority in the marriage relationship.

        Personally, I have experienced the a difference between sex done out of fear or out of compliance with the perverted enticements of the devil, and sex done with love and trust and mutual respect. And I found that when there was mutual respect and love, sex was really pleasurable. No toys or stuff needed. Just love and respect and freedom to say “yes” and “no” as one felt so inclined at any given moment.

        Giving her that kind of freedom and love and respect is the best recipe for inclining a woman to desire sex, in my humble opinion. It can even heal the pain and skewed / fused / knotted wiring that comes from previous sexual abuse.

      4. Amber – your poor friend! I would be scared too, if I were her. Most women I know don’t have the level of drive that men do, that is not abnormal. And forcing sex on her with objects and “toys” is not the way to get her interested in more intimacy. Threats have no place in love. 😦

      5. She needs to get away from him and get some form of intervention now. She needs to listen to her conscience. If she cannot explain this to him (because he is abusive in other ways or it would put her in danger) she needs to seek intervention. This is most certain sexual abuse and she does not need to submit to this sick and perverted man — not one more time — not one more day. His sin needs to be confronted. Perhaps you could find a way to help her out of her weekend “date with the devil”.

  2. In a couple of weeks I’m about to sign the divorce papers. The one thing I cry most about is how much the marriage bed was defiled because of adultery and pornography and sex being used [as] a weapon against me. I was totally robbed in the area of sex in the former marriage. The one place (marriage) that I was supposed to enjoy my sexuality was non-existent. At some point I’m gonna have to stop crying about it but the pain to way to deep. Well at least the pressure and pain of my body being used as an object is no longer. Wish I read this post 3 years ago. But now I know.


      1. I used to wear the ‘happy mask’ quite well. Was very hard to get that thing off. But I did and am now making up for the long lost tears.

    1. Dear Anon, I understand what you’re going through, as I lived with sexual abuse in my “Christian” marriage for 27 years. I finally left and got a divorce. I know this is a very hard time for you and I want to encourage you and let you know that there IS serenity after all of this.
      Blessings to you!

      1. Thank you, D.Anne, for the encouragement. You are absolutely right….there really is ‘serenity.’ I never looked at it that way before. Will be interesting to see how God redeems this for me. My abuse was 10 years, can’t image 27. God bless you.

  3. Anon, there were many factors that played into my staying for so many years, at first I didn’t realize it WAS abuse and thought I was supposed to be the good wife, pleasing my husband even when it was painful or uncomfortable to me. Later the kids and our ministries kept me there, and ultimately I had to wait until God said “GO!”. He used a sermon about Jesus at Bethesda, where the paralyzed man said he was waiting for the waters to move, waiting for someone to help him into the waters….and Jesus said “Stop waiting, just get up and go!” Later the man couldn’t really explain how it had happened, especially on the Sabbath, but he said “That guy over there, Jesus, told me to get up, and I did!” [Paraphrasing John 5:1-15.]

    I just published my book on Amazon for Kindle. You don’t have to own a Kindle to read it, you can download Kindle onto your laptop. The book is “To Love and to Cherish….facing sexual abuse in marriage” by D. Anne Pierce. Cost is only $5.99, and I hope you will find it helpful.

    Blessings to you!

      1. Hi, Anon, Just wondering how you’re doing now. I believe in a prior comment you said that your divorce was almost final. I know this is an emotional time for you and I hope that the time of serenity will soon be part of your life.
        I thought soon after I left that I was healed but I have found out that it is an ongoing thing and many people and circumstances have been a part of that. I thank God for Barbara Roberts, you and others who are speaking out about this horrible thing that happens even in Christian marriages, when one or both partners are not submitting their minds and bodies to God and let worldly trash invade their minds and marriage.

        My email is [Please email TWBTC and Barb if you wish to know the email address Serenityforanne gave; we don’t want her pestered by abusers….] if you wish to correspond. I will keep you in my prayers!

      2. Hi, Serenityforanne,
        Thanks for being concerned with my well-being. I am divorced now, it went through in July. I’m very relieved to say the least. I am also realizing how much healing, especially of my emotions is a slow process. Just went I think I’m done with the tears more seem to come. It has been painful to realize how I was in a marriage where the marriage bed was constantly defiled. This is also something I cry and also get angry about!

  4. Interesting that this particular post has come ‘alive ‘ again. I have not seen it before, and perhaps if I did I would not have thought it applied to me then, but I’ve fairly recently discovered that it does in a deep way. I relate the the crying non-stop. When I first began to understand that the sex in my marriage of over 20 years was abuse….I was in denial, shock but found myself crying for weeks as the reality sunk in. Coming to understand emotional abuse and verbal abuse was a paradigm shift but sexual abuse??? This was an even bigger leap for my mind.

    There is nothing overt in how my ex abused me….and being a ‘good Christian couple’ we waited until we were married to have sex. Therefore I had NOTHING to gage [variant spelling on “gauge”] the health of our sex life by. Just keep trying harder to be the perfect wife and lover, saying, doing everything just the right way….but NEVER once was it good enough. Sex is not something I was ‘free’ to talk about with anyone, but when I finally did several months ago….the reactions of people was what made me realize that what had been the ‘norm’ was not healthy in any way. It’s liberating to talk about my sex life now….the taboo, shame-filled topic where I was a constant failure. I now see that being married to a Narcissist, I could never be what he wanted, because what he wants does not exist.

    I’m starting to believe that was not my failure, but his. But it is a very deep wound to heal indeed. 😦

    Placing a huge boundary around sex and saying “NO….I don’t trust you and I can’t have sex with someone I don’t trust” was the beginning of my healing.

    [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

  5. I told my councellor today about some of the sexual abuse I have experienced. When these things have happened I am mute….I don’t speak out, I do allow but inside I’m disgusted and fearful of speaking out. I am a sexual abuse survivor from childhood. My councellor told me today that being mute is saying “yes” and “it is then consensual not abusive”. Sexual abuse is non-consensual. As a child I went mute when I was abused. I couldn’t speak out….

    I am interested in your views on this statement my councellor made today….

    One of the positive things she did say today was that “God hates divorce but He allows it for the three A”s….adultery, addiction and ABUSE”!!! Well I was very pleased to hear her say this!

    1. Loves6 – your counsellor flunks both tests miserably. As Judith Herman notes in her book “Trauma and Recovery” (everyone should read it), our natural instincts make us freeze up and go passive many times when we are traumatized. Like a squirrel caught in the jaws of a cat just looks totally limp and dead, but isn’t. It is well-documented that rape victims can go silent and passive, almost as if in another “place.” Being mute is NOT saying “yes”.

      Now, don’t give the counsellor kudos for the “God hates divorce” thing. The moment someone pulls those 3 words on you, be done with them as a counsellor. That is a warping of God’s Word. If you have not read Barbara’s book, “Not Under Bondage”, get one right away and read it. And then regarding the —

      But God allows for divorce for the three A’s

      I cannot give your counsellor a star here either. Why? Because he / she said it in the context of just telling you that “God hates divorce”! So when someone says “but God allows it for….” what they are saying is, “well, you can divorce but of course that is second rate in God’s sight. It’s wrong, but He will give you a pass on it. You really are just choosing the lesser of two evils.” Nonsense!! Leaving an abuser and filing the necessary paperwork to acknowledge the abuser’s destruction of the marriage covenant is not sin – in fact it is a righteous act of which God approves.

      Dump that counsellor. You won’t find help there. Blessings.

    2. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


      Hi, Loves6, I second Jeff’s reply to you. And I think your counselor needs to get some basic training in sexual abuse. Going mute does not indicate consent.

      Here is a very important saying: Consent is the “YES” we say when we are free to say “NO”.

      If you put that to your counselor and pointed out that if you said “No” to your husband there would be some very unpleasant repercussions, then she might have to rethink her stuplistic statement.

      ‘Stuplistic’ is our new word; it was given to us by BIT. It is a cross between stupid and simplistic.

      1. Thank you, Barb. I knew it when she said it I just needed to hear it from the experienced….this blog. I felt it was trauma that was making me mute….fear and trauma. My husband has this view that the marriage bed is undefiled…. So the husband can do stuff and it’s ok. My muteness is obviously he way of thinking I’m ok with it but I am not….he knows of all my trauma, which makes this even more despicable to me [to be] honest.

        I have told my counsellor my fear of the repercussions of me speaking up. Her view is there is only one more thing I can do to save my marriage. Lay down the ‘not anymores’….’this is not acceptable anymore talk’….sexual stuff, verbal stuff and emotional abuse stuff. I have told her that I have confronted him on it all but he is not changing. Then she went into the three A”s for divorce….I was relieved though when she said I could divorce for abuse, even though “God hates divorce” (in her view). Thank you, Jeff, for your clarification on this.

        SIGH SIGH SIGH All seems to much of a mountain to climb. I am totally over it and starting to shut down.

        I have my mom looking at schools for my children at the moment. All part of the plan for my escape.
        Thank you too for your words of wisdom, Barb. x

        [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      2. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


        Her view is there is only one more thing I can do to save my marriage. Lay down the ‘not anymores’…’this is not acceptable any more talk’….sexual stuff, verbal stuff and emotionaal abuse stuff. I have told her that I have confronted him on it all but he is not changing.

        I’m not in the counseling room with you, so don’t know the tone and context in which she said that, but it seems to me like she may be working from a number of possible (not mutually exclusive) presuppositions —
        –that you want to save the marriage,
        –that you ought to want to save the marriage,
        –that saving the marriage is her the default goal in her philosophy of counseling, and she expects it would / should be your default goal as well.

        Like Jeff said, if she thinks that “God hates divorce” but allows it (as second best) for the three A’s, then it would follow that she would think that saving the marriage is the default goal in counseling.

        I wonder if it has ever occurred to her that divorce in some cases is not second best but best, and divorce is the only way to get relatively safe and to give the kids a chance to live the rest of their childhoods with at least part of their time being free of the toxicity and tension of living with an abuser. So many of our readers testify that while running the gauntlet of separation and the family court is pretty hard, their lives and the lives of their kids are, in the long term, much improved after divorce.

      3. Also, I’m annoyed that your counselor suggested you lay down the ‘not anymores’, when you have already told her you have confronted him on all those things, all those behaviors of his are destructive and hurtful to you. Doesn’t she listen to what you say? Is she wanting to keep the superior position of ‘expert’ so she can tell you what she thinks you ought to do, so she just ignores the fact that you have already tried all those things?

        I’ve met so many “wanna be” counselors who take that line. It’s patronizing. What they need to be doing is (1) affirming you for the ways you have already been responding to your abuser in trying to confront him, set boundaries, tell him ‘not anymore’, etc., and (2) validating your report that even when you tell him ‘not anymore’ he pays no attention.

  6. I came across the “Aphrodite Wounded” site a few days ago while searching “Intimate Partner Abuse….rape”.
    A statement on there really woke me up and triggered me into a meltdown. The statement spoke of marital rape being a part of the man wanting power and control. Other abuse in the home also goes with abuse in the bedroom.

    Sexual abuse was one thing for me to work out in marriage….rape is another matter. I have to say it has floored me….I am I total shock that this man that I have trusted would rape me….I find it hard to even utter the word. I feel like I apart use1 shamed just trying to gain attention to myself.

    I have told two girlfriends and my husband’s best friend (after he hugged me and told me “not to give up in God”), after separate conversations….one of my girlfriends prayed for me….hugged me and loved me. The other girlfriend again said about it being “consensual” (I retaliated and spoke up and said “my husband may have said that to your husband but I’m speaking of years of this”), my husband’s mate said his “ex-wife said similar things about him and he was not that man so he wasn’t taking sides”.

    So God has placed one special friend in my life. A life-line for me as I navigate my way through one of the toughest times in my life.

    This is a very very hard thing as a victim to have to come to terms with.

    1[Ed’s note: we are not sure what Loves6 meant there so we are not attempting to edit those words — let us know if you want, Loves6, and we’ll make the amendment. 🙂 ]

  7. I just want to say how thankful I am for a site like this. As a Christian I long for Christian advice on sexual abuse in marriage. I am seeing a counselor now and she supports me very much, but I wish I could hear biblical counseling on this. I currently haven’t found a good church, so I will continue to come here to get the “extra” I can’t get from my counselor.

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