Is Marital Rape a Myth Or the Truth? - Seeker's Thoughts

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Is Marital Rape a Myth Or the Truth?


Is Marital Rape a Myth Or the Truth?

Non consensual sexual conduct within marriage can have devastating physical and psychological repercussions for its victim; yet most states still downgrade or don't recognize marital rape as an offense.

Tragically, victims don't always receive the support they require and must face trauma alone.


What is Marital Rape?


Rape is often thought of as being something that only occurs between strangers; however, in fact it can occur between anyone at any stage in any relationship imaginable - from spouses and cohabitation partners through to friends and family. One form of this sexual violence known as marital rape involves husbands or partners assaulting their wives - this should not go undetected and needs to be addressed immediately.


Estimates suggest that 10-14% of married women will experience some form of rape by their husband or partner during their relationship, yet this occurrence receives minimal consideration by social scientists, practitioners, and the criminal justice system. 


Up until the 1970s, spouses were exempt from sexual assault laws; therefore rape by a husband wasn't considered illegal under most states' statutes until later. Victims can experience what has been called "sadistic rape", including torture, perversion and physical attacks from their spouse during a relationship.


Victims of marital rape often face challenges in accessing support and resources they require, which is made more challenging by their intimate relationship with their attacker. 


Victims may experience feelings such as trust issues, acute fear, self-doubt, and worry that the attacker will hurt them again. Unfortunately, research shows that spouse abuse victims tend to report these crimes much less frequently than victims raped by strangers.


Proving marital rape can be challenging for prosecutors because corroboration of victim testimony may not always be easy. Furthermore, many victims have children or other close relationships with their abusers that make them fearful of filing charges; yet as long as witnesses corroborate victim stories then marital rape cases should be prosecuted like any other sexual assault case would.


Myth 1: Marital Rape isn’t as serious as rape by a stranger


Research across many societies, cultures and social groups consistently shows that rape myths are pervasive and have far-reaching ramifications. Perpetrated either by victims themselves, family members of victims or justice professionals (police practitioners and legal decision-makers), these false beliefs serve to hinder various justice pathways (Debowska et al. 2018; Grubb and Turner 2012; Johnson and Beech 2017; Labhardt et al 2022).


Rape myths can be used as justification for why women did not report rape incidents; such as, 'She must have asked for it because she was drunk or wearing short clothing'. Such victim-blaming undermines the notion that all rape crimes are against women and must be treated accordingly.


As evidenced by statistics and reports, sexual assault committed by someone known to the victim is more often reported and prosecuted; yet conviction rates tend to be lower in known-offender rapes due to myths that discourage victims from reporting and seeking justice for sexual assaults.


As is evident from this research, marital rape myths must be dispelled. All who interact with survivors such as police officers, health care providers, religious leaders, counselors and advocates should work to raise awareness of this issue and effectively tackle sexual violence against married women by providing women with resources, information and support should their husband rape them. Furthermore, batterers' intervention programs must prioritize addressing rape incidents from spouses.


Myth 2: Marital Rape isn’t as offensive as rape by a stranger


Sexual assaults committed by strangers usually receive much more media coverage than attacks perpetrated against spouses or intimate partners, due to media sensationalism surrounding stories of stranger rape and the stigma attached to intimate partner violence (IPV). 


Victims of marital rape tend to experience additional barriers when reporting such attacks - including shame, guilt, embarrassment, confidentiality concerns and fears of retaliation; studies have also demonstrated that investigations for these cases tend to be less extensive compared with cases involving strangers.


Many states offer legal loopholes that permit perpetrators of marital rape from prosecution, even though they remain legally accountable. These exemptions could be granted due to factors like age or whether or not consent was given from victims in such instances.


Marital rape is more prevalent than many may believe, with women reporting being raped multiple times by their husbands. While in some instances this results from longstanding physical or verbal abuse from their partners, other instances involve what's known as "battering rape," in which sexual assault occurs after she refuses to have sexual relations with him.


Rape is an act of violence with lasting and devastating repercussions for its survivors, yet more work must be done to educate law enforcement about this issue and provide resources and support to victims of marital rape survivors. A great deal needs to be done in terms of sensitizing judiciary officers and police officers regarding marital rape survivors; similarly health care providers, social workers, religious leaders and domestic violence advocates need to work towards providing necessary education on this topic and offering resources and support to them as needed.


Myth 3: Marital Rape isn’t a crime


Though marital rape has been legalized in all fifty states, it remains one of the more hidden forms of sexual assault. Due to legal loopholes, victims often fail to file charges against their attackers; therefore, it is vitally important that we close these loopholes and strengthen state laws on marital rape.


Marital rape occurs when a husband unlawfully assaults his wife through physical, psychological and/or sexual means. According to research, victims often experience psychological effects like anxiety, depression, fear, shock and suicidal ideation which have long-lasting and often life-altering repercussions for themselves and those close to them.


Establishing sexual relationships within marriage has long been considered a man's "spousal right". Unfortunately, this has led to a culture in which sexual violence was accepted as part of relationships; only after Nirbhaya rape case did it become illegal to engage in such practices within marital rape.


However, much work remains. Judicial and police staff must become more sensitive to this issue, while also educating the masses; criminalizing marital rape will only become reality by dispelling myths such as one suggesting it can be dismissed easily.


Attitudes that marginalize women must change. Women must break free of the chains that limit them in defending their rights and seeking justice. Furthermore, we must encourage state legislators to update rape laws accordingly - including acknowledging marital rape as no different than other types of rape committed against strangers.


Myth 4: Marital Rape isn’t a crime


While international conventions against violence against women and growing voices in support of gender equality have increased significantly in recent years, marital rape has mostly gone underreported. 


Women subjected to marital rape by their husbands experience multiple forms of sexual assault including physical, emotional and psychological assault as well as post traumatic stress disorder and suicides as a result of such abuse; yet this issue remains obscure and considered separate from all others.


Rape by spouses should be recognized as an inhuman and serious offense that must be treated accordingly. There remains much work to do in terms of sensitizing police and judiciary officials, public education campaigns, combatting social myths and lived experience research.


Since 1993, all states have criminalized marital rape as an offense; however, legal loopholes sometimes downgrade it or consider it no crime at all. To address this problem effectively and close loopholes within state legislation it must be urgently encouraged that laws change to close any loopholes that exist in Marital Rape laws.


Shockingly, those claiming to be Christian men often show more misperception about this issue than others! Their false sense of superiority causes them to believe they can control their sexual desires without women intervening - which is of course completely false: women who play "hard to get" and make life hard are usually the ones most at risk from abusers; there should never be any excuses or justification for rape or sexual assault of any sort!

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