Rape in Marriage

Marital rape can be defined as any unwanted intercourse or penetration (vaginal, anal, or oral) obtained by force, threat of force, or when the woman is unable to consent. Most studies of marital rape have included couples who are legally married, separated, divorced or cohabiting with the understanding that the dynamics of sexual violence in a long-term cohabiting relationship are similar to those of a married couple.

Diana Russell’s (1990) landmark study of sexual assault established that marital rape is a serious problem that millions of women face each year. Researchers estimate that between 10% and 14% of married women experience rape in marriage. When researchers have examined the prevalence of different types of rape, they have found that marital rape accounts for approximately 25% of all rapes (Randall&Haskall, 1995).

Despite the prevalence of marital rape, this problem has received little attention from social scientists, the criminal justice system, and the larger society as a whole. Notice how old the studies I am quoting are – I could not find more recent ones. Obviously more work needs to be done in this area.

Over 17 years of supporting women who have been abused by their partners, I know that rape, in intimate relationships, is far to common and has an utterly devastating impact on women.



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