It’s increasingly clear that domestic sexual abuse and assault is becoming much more prevalent during the COVID-19 crisis. As couples and families are being forced to lock down and stay inside, many facing financial and emotional struggles, the incident rate of sexual abuse and assault is on the rise. This unfortunate byproduct of an already devastating crisis is alarming, but there are certain steps one can take to try and prevent sexual abuse and assault at all costs.
First, it’s always important that consent is never a given, even when you’re in a serious, committed relationship with a partner. You are able to set your own boundaries and terminate physical or sexual activity whenever you wish. If your partner tries to coerce or force themselves on you by suggesting that it’s your obligation or duty to perform a sexual act, you are completely within your right to refuse their advance and contact law enforcement if the situation escalates. Disregarding or minimizing your wishes in favor of their own needs amounts to sexual abuse, and if they continue despite your insistence to stop, then it amounts to assault.
Make a Safety Plan
If you’re stuck at home in a relationship that is quickly going from bad to worse, there are several steps you can take to set up a safety plan. Your safety plan should be tailored to what you can realistically achieve in our current circumstances. First of all, it’s important to remember that many nonprofit organizations across the state are currently offering domestic and sexual abuse victims the opportunity to stay at a hotel or motel in order to escape an abusive situation. If you are fearing for your safety or your life, please contact any number of Florida nonprofits working to end domestic abuse and provide a safe haven for abused partners at this strange and difficult time.
If you find yourself stuck at home with a difficult partner and are having trouble deciding whether it’s time to seek shelter through the state, there are some strategies you can employ while staying at home. For example, if your partner is being particularly insistent, you might try sleeping in the other room or ask friends or family to call you right around or just after bedtime with minor emergencies, so you have an excuse to leave the room. You might also ask your doctor whether there is a medical excuse you can give your partner as to why you must avoid intercourse, or blame your unwillingness to have intercourse on nausea, headache, menstrual cramps, or some other such ailment. As a last resort, you might even consider ‘making’ yourself sick by taking a laxative that would keep you in the bathroom all night.
Because all of these measures certainly seem drastic and even extreme, consider whether it might be best to ask a friend or close family member if you can self-isolate at their home instead of your own. If you’re at the point where your partner’s sexual advances are becoming so scary that you need to avoid them at all costs, then making the decision to move to another’s home is a great first step toward getting out of this relationship for good.
Know Your Rights Under the Law
Florida takes sexual assault and abuse very seriously, and the penalties for conviction are quite severe. In addition to serving jail time, sex offenders are required to be listed in a sex offender registry which bars them from living or coming in close proximity to schools, and requires that potential landlords or employers are aware of their sex offender status. If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault from your partner, you are within your right to call the police and push for a criminal conviction.
If you need legal assistance during this time, we are here to help. Contact our office today.