It is still sexual assault: community group addresses sexual assault within marriage

It is still sexual assault: community group addresses sexual assault within marriage

Jessica L Szabo

Silver Pinyon Journal

2 July 2009

There are many myths surrounding sexual assault and one of the most pervasive myths states that sexual assault cannot occur within a married couple or in a committed romantic relationship.

Dawn Swanson, Co-Coordinator and Advocate for CAASA (Community Advocates Against Sexual Assault), noted that this myth is widespread in the community her group serves. ”Sexual violence happens all the time in relationships and from what we've seen it's common here (Winnemucca, Nev) as well,” she said. “Many of the women that come forward for help with domestic violence report having been raped by their partners. A lot of women, and men, do not realize it is sexual assault, even when you're in a relationship with them.”

CAASA and other groups working to fight against sexual assault stress this myth is completely untrue. “Any time a person does not consent to sex or sex acts, it is sexual assault,” Swanson stressed. “It is also not unusual to think that that it is not rape if you have been with the person before in a consensual relationship. I think that some women have a false belief that just because a consensual act happened in the past that past act makes any future acts okay.”

Physical force does not have to be present in order for a sexual assault to occur. Engaging in sexual activity with someone who is too drunk to fully understand what they are doing, drugged, or afraid or unable to say “no” for any reason is also sexual assault, regardless of the relationship that previously existed between the perpetrator and the victim.

There is a related myth which states that it is not sexual assault if the forced activity did not include intercourse. However, any sexual activity that occurs without the consent of everyone involved is sexual assault, even if some or all of the people involved are married or in a relationship. This can include touching, fondling, forcing another person to view sexually explicit or pornographic material, or allowing another person to view the spouse or partner in a sexual or other private situation without their knowledge or consent.

Many people are understandably embarrassed to openly discuss such situations with friends or relatives, but Swanson urged anyone who thinks a friend may be the victim of sexual assault perpetrated by a spouse or other romantic partner to reach out to the person.

“Talk to your friend and be there for her, or him. Let them know there are local resources available, help her or him see that it is not acceptable for anyone to force themselves on anyone else. Help them to understand that it is sexual violence and that they do not have to accept it because they are in a relationship with the person,” Swanson concluded.

For more information concerning sexual assault:

Community Advocates Against Sexual Assault:

P.O. Box 1338

Winnemucca, NV 89446

623-2328, 623-2312

Websites: and

For assistance in Northern Nevada:

Victim-Witness Center in Reno:

775-328-3210 or 888-333-6076

To reach a national organization:

RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network)


Editor’s note: Each of the resources listed above is an independent resource. The appearance of an organization or group on a list with another organization or group does not indicate affiliation between the groups, or one group’s endorsement of another. Please contact each group individually to learn more about their affiliations, endorsements and the services they can provide.