Have you ever been pressured by a spouse or partner to say "yes" to something physical or sexual when you would have rather said "no"? And you wake up feeling a sense of guilt and shame because of what you were pressured into?

If someone has ever made you feel like you had to engage with them in a sexual way because they would be upset or angry if you refused, that's called sexual coercion.

Feeling threatened or manipulated by someone to do something physical or sexual that you weren't comfortable with—or simply refused to—is sexual coercion. It doesn't necessarily have to involve sex. Unwanted physical contact when you have declined or reluctantly given into is sexual coercion.

You should feel safe to communicate what you're comfortable with. If your partner does not provide you with a safe environment to share your feelings or doesn't respect your desires, this is not a healthy relationship. Just because you are in a romantic relationship with someone doesn't mean you have to say "yes" to everything they want.

No one has the right to control you.

Examples of Sexual Coercion:

  • They make you feel obligated to have sex: "You love me, right? Then prove it."
  • They say it's your fault: "You're the one in that cute little dress. How am I supposed to keep my hands off?"
  • They don't speak to you or flat-out ignore you if you don't comply.
  • They say they'll reward you: "I'll give you this job if…"
  • They threaten you: "If you tell anyone, I'll hurt you."

What Can You Do About It?

The first thing you need to realize is that what has happened is not your fault, and you can make sure it never happens again. Sexual coercion is assault, which is a crime punishable by law.

No one should be able to feel like they can manipulate or control you. Many women have been in your situation, which is why laws have been set in place to protect you.

Reach out for help.

Tell someone you're close to. A family member, friend, or counselor. Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) or your local police department.

National Sexual Assault Online Chat: 

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