Silenced suffering: the need for a better understanding of partner sexual violence

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2015 Apr;16(2):111-35. doi: 10.1177/1524838013517560. Epub 2013 Dec 30.


This article has two overall goals. First, to examine the current state of sexual violence research to highlight several shortcomings in the knowledge on partner sexual violence. Second, to describe several factors to consider in future research to facilitate a more in-depth understanding of partner sexual violence. Shortcomings of the research on partner sexual violence include (1) overreliance on dichotomous yes/no representations of sexual violence experiences; (2) lack of, or inadequate documentation of the scope and nature of partner sexual violence; (3) inadequate ways to account for impairment of consent under different circumstances; (4) difficulties in discriminating unwanted from nonconsensual sexual activities; and (5) limited information about the role sexual violence plays in the larger context of coercive control. In order to facilitate a more in-depth understanding of partner sexual assault, there is a need (1) to better understand the scope and nature of partner sexual assault and (2) to better understand the role partner sexual violence plays in coercive control. By improving the measurement of this phenomenon, victims, researchers, practitioners, and those involved in the justice system might be better equipped to respond to sexual violence among intimate partners.

Keywords: cultural contexts; domestic violence; sexual assault.

MeSH terms

  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Behavioral Research / methods
  • Culture
  • Disclosure*
  • Domestic Violence / ethnology
  • Domestic Violence / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Domestic Violence / prevention & control
  • Domestic Violence / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Sex Offenses* / ethnology
  • Sex Offenses* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sex Offenses* / prevention & control
  • Sex Offenses* / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Social Control, Formal / methods