A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

FAQ Highlight — What about sexual abuse in marriage?

The topic of sexual abuse is very hard for victims to raise when speaking to counselors or supportive friends. It’s hard to bring up, but once it has been raised, it’s easier to talk about.

Domestic abuse researchers have found that victims are often glad when a counselor or support person brings up the subject of sexual abuse. A gentle way a support person could bring up the subject would be by asking something like, “Have you been pressured or coerced into sexual things which you didn’t want?” Or, “Has your spouse ever sexually abused you?”

We have compiled over a dozen posts that address different aspects of sexual abuse, both before and in marriage.

FAQ — What about sexual abuse in marriage?



  1. Rebecca Davis

    I was told by a well-meaning person that I shouldn’t ever ask any questions, but should wait for the friend to speak when she’s ready. For a while I tried to follow that religiously, but then began to learn that sometimes people really want you to broach the subject through a question. (Then if they say, “I don’t want to talk about that,” respect that response, but they’ll know the door is open for further conversation.)

    But since many people who’ve been sexually abused in marriage don’t understand what sexual abuse is, maybe another way to approach “Have you ever been sexually abused in your marriage” might be “Has he ever intentionally caused you pain during times of intimacy.” I know some people think intentional pain during sex is just a given, comparable to childbirth (“You’ve got to push through the pain”), perhaps because of abuse in their past, so they might say, “Well, sure, but….” And that’s an open door to gently help them begin to learn what sexual abuse really is.

  2. Heather Black (formerly H)

    I agree that it’s helpful for a victim if someone supportive gently raises a question. Before I married the abuser, I tried to tell someone I knew about the sexual abuse I experienced. But I didn’t frame it as assault or rape because that’s not how I was thinking of it in my confused head. I so wish this person had said something like, “did you want him to do that?” Because I would have realized, NO, I didn’t want that, and maybe a light would have come on and I wouldn’t have married him. I swear, if I ever hear a girl confide in me about slipping up or making a mistake or going to far with her boyfriend and feeling guilty over it, I will ask if she wanted it to happen. If she did, the blood of Jesus covers her, but if she didn’t, then something more sinister is going on and maybe she’s just too confused about it or afraid to bring it up.

    • Amy

      Thank you for sharing. That same thing happened to me. I felt such guilt for pre-marital sex with my now ex-husband, but I remember telling him no. I also remember being so confused because he claimed to be a Christian – I met him while working in children’s ministry at church. Didn’t he know pre-marital sex was wrong? Well, he knew, he just didn’t care and then came back and told me what a whore I was for sleeping with him. But, apparently, that standard didn’t apply to him. I’ve since learned that he is an alcoholic, abusive, and I doubt is true believer.

    • May He bring justice

      Yes I work in an international setting where there is an attitude of boys will be boys and can’t help but act out sexually. Girls are crucified for premarital sex and unplanned pregnancy. As I counsel them, many were pushed to have sex. They didn’t want to. One girl was even asked if she was a virgin. She said yes and her boyfriend said “I don’t believe you.” Then he raped her. It is so evil what is done never the guys are never held accountable. I talk all the time about what is consent. The shame the girls feel is tremendous.

  3. Amy

    Several years ago, I went to a weeklong Christian retreat that focused on healing from trauma. One of the sections was on sexual abuse. Many sexually disturbing scenes from my marriage came flooding back, which, with the help of my group leader, I shared with my small group. I can still hear her matter-of-factly tell me that I was raped. I never would have associated that word with my experience if I hadn’t attended that retreat. We need to provide places for these stories to be shared so healing can begin. For years I believed that my husband could do to me whatever he wanted sexually because we were married. Teaching about healthy sexuality in marriage is sorely lacking in our churches. Once I understood that I could rightly identify myself as a rape survivor I was able to focus on treating those wounds.

    • MarkQ

      I find it interesting how much pressure there is not to use those sorts of words. I was talking with a sibling about my upbringing, and that I had finally come to the conclusion that I was abused. The sibling said, “well, I agree that dad did a lot of bad things, but when you put the word abuse on it, it opens up a can of worms”. Well, maybe so. Maybe it’s okay to say that some themes I’ve struggled with throughout life aren’t deliberate sin, but instead a natural defense mechanism to how I was treated. Maybe it makes me a victim instead of a willing participant.

    • healinginhim

      Amy – your comment concerning rape brought back the memory of when one of my daughters and SIL scoffed at the idea that a spouse could rape their partner. How can I even describe what it’s like to know that my daughters make excuses for ‘his’ behaviour? I’ve often explained to many that I feel dirty, humiliated and raped — ‘he’ no longer needs me … after putting me through so much. 😦

  4. anonon

    Amen and amen for bringing this abomination to light. I was coerced to do all sorts of things I never wanted to do by my boyfriend, then-husband, (now ex-husband). The next morning he would feign some sort of remorse, saying the spirit of God had left him. And blame me for drawing him into temptation. I later found out that he also sexually abused my adopted daughter, and still continues to work in a position of absolute trust with orphaned children. Thank you and please continue to share the Truth.

    [Eds: Screen name edited to disidentify commenter.]

  5. LH

    I had a very good friend gently ask me some questions, and after I answered she told me that it was wrong that I had had to put up with some of my ex’s deviant sexual practices. I still appreciate her love and concern, and opening my eyes to the fact that just because we were married didn’t mean I had to always do what he said. (My ex-pastor, on the other hand, said that if I refused sex he had grounds for divorce, but his abuse was not grounds for me to seek a divorce! So glad I know better now!!)

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