Marital rape is justified by many as somehow being less egregious than someone being raped by a stranger, so long as a couple is married. This may sound laughable to many, given it seems obvious that a person forcing sex on his or her partner is an act of rape.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that marital rape became criminalized throughout the nation. Thanks to the profound efforts of women’s rights groups, most states legally recognize marital rape as no less abominable than any other sort of sexual assault.
But there are still more than eight states where it’s legal in some form for a married individual to rape his or her spouse. In many of these states, if a spouse fails to put up physical resistance to the sexual assault, the spouse can get off scot-free.
Husbands who’ve drugged their wives and had sex with their unconscious bodies, have faced no legal reprisal because their wives, who didn’t know much about consent norms, didn’t put up physical resistance to their assault.
This allowance of spouses being able to sexually abuse their partners isn’t just happening because people don’t know about these laws. October 23, 2019, Republicans in Ohio, a state with marital-rape loopholes, refused to work with Democrats to pass a bill that would have closed the loopholes.
There is a disappointing number of people who still fundamentally misunderstand that being married to someone doesn’t mean surrendering their ability to say no to sex, and don’t recognize the necessity of all participants in the act to have given their consent for it to be anything but rape.
A person’s ability to say no is subject to change at any given point. They don’t need to justify their reasoning, and nobody can ignore their refusal, whatever the reasoning.
A person who has sex with someone without their permission is committing rape. It does not matter how long that person knew them, partner or not.
If a boxer saw a past opponent of his walking down the street and hits him, it would still be assault, even though the two had consented on other occasions. In this instance, the person being hit is no longer a willing participant.
Or if a person decided to take his best friend’s car without their knowledge or consent, the friend should not be looked down upon if he presses charges; the person who took the car should not be given a lighter treatment just because of the pre-existing relationship he had with the owner of the car.
It is sad for anyone to need to be told having sex without their permission is rape, regardless of the pre-existing relationship between the victim and rapist.
If you’ve been or feel you may have been sexually abused, you can contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a national sexual assault hotline, by calling 1-800-656-4673, where you will be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.