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April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, a month honoring survivors and the communities surrounding them with hope, courage, and strength. At the Forced Marriage Initiative, we join these awareness and prevention efforts recognizing that survivors and those at risk of forced marriage are likely to also fear and/or experience rape and sexual assault.

A forced marriage is one that takes place without the full and free consent of one or both parties and typically involves elements of forced, fraud, or coercion. Forced marriage is a form of violence on its own, but often occurs hand in hand with other types of abuse, including child abuse, domestic and family violence, stalking, rape and sexual assault.

As service providers, we have found that sexual assault and rape can not only be a consequence, but also a cause to pressure a person into a marriage they do not want.  For some survivors or individuals at risk, their family may believe that marriage after a sexual assault is the only way to preserve their reputation. Sometimes this may mean using marriage to protect the perpetrator from criminal consequences. For minors at risk, parental consent in the marriage process could be used as a tool to exert power, control, and enable parental coercion.

Non-consensual sexual behavior likely follows a non-consensual marriage upon the wedding night and repeatedly throughout the marriage. Some survivors and individuals at risk may not know that rape and sexual assault can occur within a marriage, naming that they have the right to say no to all forms of sexual acts that they do not agree to can be powerful in the help seeking process.

At the Forced Marriage Initiative, we stand in support of survivors with lived experiences of sexual assault and rape. All of us can be powerful allies in supporting survivors and individuals at risk by validating their experiences, explaining their rights and options, and connecting them to services.

Visit to contact us if you or someone you know is being forced, coerced, or manipulated into marriage.