Understanding Marital Rape

Resources and Support for Victims of Spousal Rape

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Marital rape is defined by any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse, committed without consent and/or against a person's will, obtained by force, or threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent. There are various types of rape, including battering rape, force-only rape, and obsessive/sadistic rape. Learn about other types of non-consensual acts, how to get support and more about the crime and statistics of marital rape.

Nonconsensual Sexual Acts

These nonconsensual sexual acts include intercourse, anal or oral sex, forced sexual behavior with other individuals, and other sexual activities that are considered by the victim as degrading, humiliating, painful, and unwanted.

"Rape is rape. Marital rape is rape. Intimate rape is rape. Stranger rape is rape. Force-only rape is still rape! Rape is rape regardless of the relationship between the rapist and the victim."

Get Support Today

It is common for victims and survivors to react to marital rape profoundly, by feeling a range of emotions such as betrayal, shock, and depression. Use the resources below to get the support you need:

  • For immediate help, call 1.800.656.HOPE or 911.
  • Chat online at online.rainn.org or over at The Hotline.
  • To learn more about spousal rape, wife rape or intimate rape, visit the National Sexual Assault Hotline. The website includes additional resources including safety planning when someone is hurting you.

Marital Rape Is a Crime

On July 5, 1993, marital rape became a crime in all 50 states, under at least one section of the sexual offense codes. Laura X, of the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape, provides a State Law Chart on her website which indicates the status of each state with regard to their marital rape exemptions. As of May 2005, in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and on federal lands, there are no exemptions from rape prosecution granted to husbands. However, in 30 states, there are still some exemptions given to husbands from rape prosecution.

In most of these 30 states, a husband is exempt when he does not have to use force because his wife is most vulnerable (e.g., she is mentally or physically impaired, unconscious, asleep, etc.) and is legally unable to consent (Bergen, 1996; Russell, 1990; NCMDR, 2005). Because of the marital contract, a wife's consent is assumed." Source: Raquel Kennedy Bergen. "Marital Rape: New Research and Directions." VAWNET.com.

Statistics From Victims and Survivors of Rape

  • According to the National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women, approximately 10 to 14 percent of married women are raped by their husbands in the United States.
  • Survivors of rape often have higher levels of physical injury and longer-lasting trauma, according to The Biannual Publication of Washington Colation of Sexual Assault Programs.
  • Research has shown victims of wife rape are more likely to be raped several times in comparison to stranger and acquaintance rape victims, as researched by the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center.
  • A mere 16 percent of rape victims let their law enforcement know about what happened, as noted by the HeathResearchFunding.org website.

Source: Raquel Kennedy Bergen. "Marital Rape: New Research and Directions." VAWNET.com