Understanding Trauma & Violence


My ex-boyfriend would pressure me into saying "yes" to sexual acts, even when I was too intoxicated to properly consent, not enthusiastic, or uncomfortable with parts of what he was doing. He's a nice guy who supports victims, so I don't think it was intentional. How do I know if this was sexual assault/abuse or if I was just bad at communicating?


Thank you for reaching out to us. I can share what I think based on the context you gave, but know that ultimately your interpretation of your experiences is totally up to you. 

What you're describing does sound like sexual abuse, even if your ex-boyfriend seemed like a nice person. Pressuring someone into sexual activity, pursuing sex with a person who is too intoxicated to consent, and ignoring a partner's expressed discomfort are all forms of coercion and assault. Consent should be freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, and specific. It doesn't sound like your "yes" met those criteria.

It's common for people who experience sexual abuse, especially from a partner, to struggle with self-doubt and blame. You may find yourself making excuses for his behavior or wondering if you somehow communicated poorly. But the truth is, the responsibility lies with the person who violated your consent and bodily autonomy. No matter how nice he seemed in other contexts, his actions in those moments were not okay.

Your partner should have prioritized your comfort, checked in with you, and respected any hesitation. Being too intoxicated means you couldn't fully consent. A lack of enthusiasm is not a "yes." Any sign of discomfort should have led him to stop immediately and talk with you. His failure to notice these things suggests he was willfully ignoring the signs that you weren't fully on board.

It's understandable to feel confused and conflicted, especially if parts of the relationship felt good. Abusers aren't always bad in every way. But someone who violates consent and pressures a partner into unwanted sexual acts is being abusive in those moments, whatever their other qualities. You didn't deserve to be treated that way, and it wasn't your fault.

It's also important to recognize that we live in a society where men often aren't properly taught about consent. Many boys and men internalize harmful ideas about being entitled to sex or needing to convince reluctant partners. These toxic norms do not excuse abusive behavior, but they may contribute to why some men fail to recognize or respect the nuances of consent. It's possible your ex-boyfriend had absorbed these unhealthy messages, which then played out in your relationship. Again, this doesn't make his actions okay, but it adds important context.

Ultimately, only you can define your experiences and decide what labels feel true to you. No one else gets to tell you what you've been through or how you should feel about it. If these experiences felt violating and traumatic, then it's valid to name them as abuse or assault. Trust your own emotions and reactions. You're the expert on your story.

Healing from sexual abuse can be a difficult journey, but you don't have to do it alone. I would encourage you to reach out to a counselor or call an abuse hotline to talk through your experiences in more depth. With time and support, it's absolutely possible to process this trauma and come to a place of clarity and peace. You're not alone, and you didn't do anything wrong. Thank you for reaching out to us.

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