TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE
Cases of rape are well documented, the issue is one which the public is aware of. What many people seem unaware of is that rape can also occur within relationships. It is not limited to a stranger attacking someone on the streets or at a party. Rape in relationships is a very real and very big problem.
The main issue here is that people see sex in relationships as always consenting and mutual. This is not always the case. We all have a right to say ‘no’ to sex even if we are in a relationship with the other person. If said person ignores this and the sex is not 100% consensual then this is rape. It does not have to be a stranger, it can be a partner or someone you already know.
Rape within relationships is clearly recognised by the law but many people fail to see it as a problem. We cannot assume that because someone has committed to a relationship with someone else that they then want sex every time the other person does.
Perhaps the rape is not particularly violent. In relationships, it is often the case that emotional manipulation is used when the other person does not want sex. For example, the person might threaten to leave if they do not have sex with them. Marrying or being with someone else does not mean that people give up the right to say no!
Women, especially, can often feel obligated to have sex with a partner. They might feel that they have a responsibility to have sex with them if they want a good relationship so let it happen when they do not really want it. It’s a scary thought but it’s true. I know feminists who have done this, they can say no but they feel a huge pressure to go along with it anyway. This is why we need to be aware of the possibility of rape in relationships, why we need to understand consent and we need to teach everyone that they should never have sex if they do not want to.
The huge problem here is those who are raped by a partner are less likely to report it than if it were a stranger. There is still an idea that marriage/relationships mean that partners have an entitlement to sex, this is not true!
It’s all pretty simple. Without consent, there should be no sexual activity. So what counts as consent? It can be defined as ‘free agreement.’ Someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot consent. Saying yes due to a threat is not consent. If the person is incapable of giving consent for any reason, this does not equate to actual consent. If someone decides that they wish to withdraw their consent and ask you to stop but you do not, that is rape. If the consent is not decided by the individual without any pressure then it does not count.
So just remember that rape can occur within relationships as well as outside of them. It can be truly awful because this is often someone that you thought cared about/loved you. And know that even in a relationship, we always have the right to say no.