Did you know that marital Rape was only made a criminal act in the UK in 1991? Up until then it was considered impossible for a man to rape or sexually assault his wife. To quote:
“A husband cannot rape his wife unless the parties are seperated or the court has by injunction forbidden him to interfere with his wife or he has given an undertaking in court no to interfere with her.” (The Law Made Simple, The Chaucer Press, 1981)
Marriage is a contract based on mutual love, consideration and respect. Both partners have a right to their own body, and while consideration for each person’s sexual needs is normal, forced sexual acts are not. They aren’t an expression of love. They are a purposeful betrayal of the respect and trust which form a solid marriage.
Sexual abuse within marriage leaves the victim very confused. We all accept that when someone is attacked and sexually assualted by a stranger while out on the street, it is called rape, and that it is wrong and a crime But, often when a man rapes his wife it is not seen by either as a crime, or even described as rape.
Many women accept that once they are married they can’t deny their husband sex. They see it as a wifely duty to have sex whenever it is demanded. When they have been raped they take on the guilt because they may have said no, and they think thats a sign of a bad wife. It can make them feel very worthless and diminsh their levels of self confidence.
If no violence has taken place the man will often see it as consensual, as a joint decision. He denies it was rape. This adds to the confusion of the woman who starts to question the reality of what happened.
Rape is rape, regardless of the relationship between the rapist and the victim. It can be a total stranger; someone you recognise by sight, but have never really communicated with; someone you know superficially, a neighbour or a colleague; a friend, a boy-friend or a former boyfriend; a live-in partner, or a former partner; someone you are married to or have been married to in the past.
Rape is a very personal and intimate traumatic experience. Our experiences of and reactions to rape may differ widely, and although there are many similarities in the way that we feel about being the victim of rape, regardless of the relationship between us and the rapist, there are differences between stranger and intimate/acquaintance rape, and in this section I am trying to describe and offer an understanding of some of the specific problems regarding marital rape (or rape by an acuaintance) as opposed to stranger rape.