Sexual Abuse in Relationships: Steps to Making a Claim

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is a horrific violation of human rights that affects thousands of women and men every single day. Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual activity you’ve been forced into doing against your will or been manipulated and controlled into doing with threats, sulking, or blackmail. It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator of this crime is a complete stranger or someone you are in a relationship with or married to, this is still sexual abuse. Sexual abuse in relationships can manifest itself in a variety of ways: the abuse can be physical but it can also come in the form of making your partner feel guilty for not wanting to have sex. There are many different forms of sexual abuse in relationships; this guide aims to provide you with more information about sexual abuse and how to make a claim if you think you have experienced it.

Is it still abuse if it happens within a relationship?: Debunking the myth

For a lot of women and men who experience sexual abuse in relationships, they may fear speaking out and accepting the abuse because of the myth that if it occurs within a relationship, it isn’t sexual abuse. For example, a married couple may have been together for many years but one of them finds themselves being coerced into having sex with the other through tactics such as manipulation and emotional blackmail. This type of controlling behaviour constitutes sexual abuse and is totally unacceptable. This is the same for people involved in S&M, or if you have a sexually adventurous open relationship, or a LGBTQ+ relationship. If you said no to a sexual act and were coerced into it, then it’s assault or abuse.

What does sexual abuse in relationships look like?

Sexual abuse in relationships can exist in many forms, the following gives some examples of this type of abuse:

  • Being forced to do sexual activities without prior consent
  • Made to watch pornography or look at sexual images
  • Made to have sex with someone else
  • Pressured into allowing naked and/or sexual photographs or videos
  • Your partner knowingly passing on a sexually transmitted disease
  • Being spiked with drugs or alcohol with the purpose of lessening your ability to say no.

Whilst the above discussed physical examples of sexual abuse, sexual abuse in relationships can also manifest in the form of sexual coercion. This can look like:

  • Feeling pressured into sexual activity after you’ve said no
  • Guilt-tripping you into doing things even when you’ve made it clear you’re afraid
  • Punishing you if you don’t go along with what they want
  • Manipulating you into feeling bad if you don’t want sex when you are unwell, tired, or injured
  • Insulting you in sexual ways or being called sexual names
  • Making you feel like you owe them sex
  • Suggesting that bad things will happen if you don’t satisfy their sexual desires
  • Becoming angry with you if you refuse to do what they want sexually or refusing to talk to you, sulking, or otherwise making you feel guilty.

My partner is sexually abusing me: who can help me?

It can be incredibly hard to walk away from sexual abuse in relationships but understanding that your safety is paramount is the first step to leaving and getting help. Once you make the decision to leave an abusive partner, try to find a safe place away from them where you can think about your next steps. A lot of things may be going through your mind at this stage: fear, anger, confusion— remember that by leaving you have done the first and hardest step. You chose yourself and the next step is seeking help to support you in the healing process.

What to consider next:

  • Reach out to a relative or friend – someone you can trust. After experiencing sexual abuse in a relationship, you will feel a range of emotions. You may be worried for your safety or the safety of your children, how you will cope financially or what your family might think if this is the first time they have learned of the abuse. Additionally, you may still love your partner and feel uncertain if you can constitute what happened to you as sexual abuse. It’s understandable to feel this way but you must remember that what happened to you is not your fault. Because of these factors, it is important to have someone there to support you in a non-judgemental environment. This can help you come to terms with the abuse and can encourage you to focus on your healing whilst the trusted person takes care of everything else. If you feel uncomfortable reaching out to someone you know, consider speaking with a counselor, sexual assault hotline, or support group.
  • Go to a health centre for an examination. It’s crucial that you seek medical care as soon as possible after being sexually abused. Depending on the extent of the abuse you may be treated for any injuries, offered medications to help prevent pregnancy and/or STIs, and have tests performed to check your wellbeing. There may also be a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who can collect evidence in case you decide to report the abuse to the authorities and build a legal case.
  • Decide whether you want to report the sexual abuse. If you want to take legal action against your attacker and you decide that it is safe to do so, it’s important that you avoid altering or destroying any evidence of the assault which would strengthen your case against them. Try not to shower, wash your hair or body, comb your hair, or change your clothes. You don’t have to go alone;  bring a trusted friend with you for support.

Making a claim

If you decide to take action against your abuser, you might also want to submit a claim to the CICA. In order for you to be eligible for compensation, you have to report the incident to the police as soon as you are able to do so. Research by the charity organization Rape Crisis suggests that only 15% of those who experienced sexual abuse reported the assault to the authorities. Unless it is reported, the CICA is highly unlikely to agree to pay any compensation.

With regards to time frames for compensation eligibility, CICA claims for sexual abuse in relationships need to be made within 2 years of the attack, unless there is evidence of mental illness/injury which has prevented the survivor from reporting the abuse. In cases of historic sexual abuse in relationships, the rules are different and compensation can be awarded where the incident is not reported at the time.

At CICA UK we appreciate the pain and trauma surrounding the subject of abuse. Our team consists of experienced sexual abuse compensation solicitors who also deal with various kinds of sexual assault claims. Our clients’ needs are our primary concern and we commit to helping survivors of sexual abuse in a respectful, non-judgemental environment.

Ultimately, our goal is to make sure you are compensated for the appalling experience you’ve endured either through financial means, an apology or simply by holding those responsible accountable.

Next Steps

If you feel ready to take action and start a claim for sexual abuse in relationships compensation then please get in touch with us and tell your story. You can do this by calling 0151 242 5111, using the contact form, or by sending an email to

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