In a relationship
Sex is not an obligation in a context of an intimate relationship, either a marriage, a dating relationship or an occasional relationship. Sex implies the consent of all the sexual partners involved.
It is important to be aware that most situations of sexual violence occur in the context of intimate relationships: a marriage; a partnership; a dating relationship and/or an occasional relationship.
In any intimate relationship:
- It is important to feel safe and to trust your partner, which implies knowing that he/she will respect all your decisions.
- It is fundamental to communicate, that is, to listen and be listened to, set limits, share expectations, fears and likes, with no fear or shame.
- Express your opinions, especially when you want to refuse to do something, with assertiveness and clarity.
- Try to resolve any conflict or misunderstanding in a peaceful and healthy manner.
- Remember that non-verbal language is also a form of communication. It is important to be aware of non-verbal signs of refusal and to respect them:
- If your partner seems uncomfortable, he/she may be not telling you all he/she is feeling;
- Your partner may be saying “no” without actually saying it;
EXAMPLE: if a partner stops kissing you or leads you to believe that he/she does not want to be touched or held, that can be a sign of non-consent or refusal.
- Consenting one thing does not mean consenting everything.
- Consent can be withdrawn at any moment; even if initially consenting, the person has the right to change their mind and the partner has the duty to respect that.
- Rights and duties in an intimate relationship are applied to all the parties involved equally.
In an occasional relationship, you should also remember that:
- It is important to think carefully about the degree of intimacy you want or expect when you start a relationship with someone you do not know well.
- Be cautious about what you want to reveal about yourself to the person you just met. Share what is strictly necessary.
- You have the right to clearly set with your partner your limits and expectations, with no fear or shame.
- If you decide to leave with the person you just met:
- Let someone you trust know where you are going and ask them to contact you sometime afterwards;
- Choose places you know and where you feel safe. Avoid places suggested by your partner or that don’t seem safe.
- Be aware of any signs of risk, such as any persistence and insisting behaviours by the person you are with.
- Be aware of your own signs of discomfort. If you feel uncomfortable, unsure or insecure with anything, think carefully before taking any decision. Remember you always have the right to say “no”.
Below you will find some signs and flags of risk of occurrence of sexual violence within a relationship:
When, for example, your partner:
- tries to convince you to do a particular sexual act, even if you don’t want to, using arguments such as “if you really loved me, you would do it” or “but just now you said yes...”;
- has already forced or pressured you to do sexual acts you do not enjoy or want to do;
- embarrasses or humiliates you because you refused being involved in a sexual act, through verbal and psychological aggression, such as “you are no good”;
- threatens to be unfaithful or accuses you of that when you do not accept to perform a sexual act;
- has threatened to end the relationship when you said “no” to a particular sexual act;
- has taken advantage of a mutually agreed sexual act performed in the past to pressure you to repeat it;
- believes your role in the relationship is to satisfy his/her sexual desires and fantasies.
If any of these behaviours is present in your relationship, you should think about the possibility of ending it.