Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Marital Rape

Approximately 10-14% of married women are raped by their husbands in the United States. Historically, most rape statutes read that rape was forced sexual intercourse with a woman not your wife, thus granting husbands a license to rape. On July 5, 1993, marital rape became a crime in all 50 states, under at least one section of the sexual offense codes. In 17 states and the District of Columbia, there are no exemptions from rape prosecution granted to husbands. However, in 33 states, there are still some exemptions given to husbands from rape prosecution. When his wife is most vulnerable (e.g., she is mentally or physically impaired, unconscious, asleep, etc.) and is unable to consent, a husband is exempt from prosecution in many of these 33 states (Bergen, 1996; Russell, 1990).

Women who are raped by their husbands are likely to be raped many times. They experience not only vaginal rape, but also oral and anal rape. Researchers generally categorize marital rape into three types:

  • Force-only rape: The husband uses only the amount of force necessary to coerce their wives.
  • Battering rape: Husbands rape and batter their wives. The battering may happen concurrently or before or after the sexual assault.
  • Sadistic /obsessive rape:Husbands use torture or perverse sexual acts. Pornography is often involved.

Women are at particularly high risk for being raped by their partners under the following circumstances:
  • Women married to domineering men who view them as "property"
  • Women who are in physically violent relationships
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Women who are ill or recovering from surgery
  • Women who are separated or divorced

It is a myth that marital rape is less serious than other forms of sexual violence. There are many physical and emotional consequences that may accompany marital rape.
  • Physical effects include injuries to the vaginal and anal areas, lacerations, soreness, bruising, torn muscles, fatigue, and vomiting.
  • Women who are battered and raped frequently suffer from broken bones, black eyes, bloody noses and knife wounds.
  • Gynecological effects include vaginal stretching, miscarriages, stillbirths, bladder infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and infertility.
  •  Short-term psychological effects include PTSD, anxiety, shock, intense fear, depression and suicidal ideation.
  • Long-term psychological effects include disordered sleeping, disordered eating, depression, intimacy problems, negative self-images, and sexual dysfunction.

Research indicates a lack of responsiveness to marital rape survivors on behalf of service providers - particularly police officers, religious leaders, rape crisis counselors, and battered women's advocates. There is a need for those who come into contact with marital rape survivors to comprehensively address this problem and provide resources, information and support to survivors.

No comments: