Family members should be aware of the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse of their elderly relatives. These include being withdrawn, reporting sexual assault, and venereal disease or genital infections. Unexplained genital or anal bleeding, torn, stained or bloody underclothing, and bruises around the breasts or genitals, are also signs of sexual abuse.
Sex workers are particularly vulnerable targets. They are dehumanised and trafficked like cattle in enormous numbers. For example, it is estimated that up to 16,000 Asian women are trafficked into Canada each year, where they suffer horrendous abuse and exploitation. Studies show that up to 80% of female sex workers suffer rape. There is also a greater incidence of rape in their private lives. Abusive partners’ sense of entitlement to do as they wish is heightened with prostituted women, because they seem to think that these women are always available for sex, and that they are ‘fair game’. Rape reopens old wounds and traumatic memories of childhood abuse. Studies show that almost 80% of prostituted women have suffered childhood sexual abuse. Unsurprisingly, sex workers rarely report rape. They are, also, 60-120 times more likely to be murdered than the general public.
Until recently, marital rape or rape by an intimate was widely condoned. Though now illegal, it is still widespread. In the past when women were ‘owned’, it was expected and accepted that the male partner was entitled to have sex whenever he wanted it, regardless of his partner’s feelings. Now it is recognised that marital rape is domestic violence in its worst form. It is rarely an isolated occurrence, but happens frequently in the relationship, and the victims begin to question if they are condoning it by staying in the abusive relationship. Some women put up with marital rape in the hope that it might elicit the loving, caring side, shown by their partners before marriage.
Marital rape can take several forms. It may be violent, or abusers may use it as a form of ‘making up’ after a bout of physical or emotional abuse. Such ‘making up’ is a clear reflection of how far the abuser is from understanding the meaning of love or intimacy. Domination can also mean holding the partner is one position so that she cannot move during the sex act, or it may be sadistic where the victim is coerced into acts, which degrade and humiliate her. The abuser may say that he wants sex as proof of his partner’s love for him. He equates attachment with love, and fails to see that having sex is not always a loving experience.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
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