By Kelsey Doucette, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
When you think of the phrase ‘marital rape’ what sorts of words come to your mind? Violating? Terrifying? Betrayal? Trapped? These were the words that came to my own mind when I imagined if the person I decided to marry, trust with my heart, and spend my life with would force me to have unwanted sex. How could your own spouse be the person that shatters you into a million pieces and uproot any sense of trust you have in them? How could someone believe they have the right to my own body? People who are raped by their spouses often have a rapid fire of questions in their mind and an intense feeling of shock.
Up until 1993, rape within a marriage was the exception in any rape case. If the rape occurred between a husband and wife, the case was essentially thrown out. That means that marital rape has only been considered illegal outside of a marriage for about 23 years. However, 13 states still make exceptions for marital rape cases (“These 13 states...”, 2015). These states have vague requirements for what constitutes marital rape, have less severe consequences, and/or make it difficult for the spouse to prove rape occurred.
The belief that a man has the right to his wife’s body upon marriage comes from an underlying, archaic thread woven through our society headed by patriarchal ideals. As far back as 1736, an English jurist, Sir Matthew Hale, made this statement: "But the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself up in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract” (Withonef, 2015). This shows just how far back the misunderstood issue of marital rape reaches.
So, you would think after about 280 years everyone would be on the same page with marital rape and how completely illegal it is based on LAW. Think again. In 2015, allegations arose from Donald Trump’s ex-wife Ivana that he had raped her during their marriage. Mr. Trump’s attorney proceeded to release a statement reading, “You cannot rape your spouse…and there’s very clear case law” (“Meet the marital rape...”, 2015). Earlier, in 2008, an activist named Phyllis Schlafly, who was highly involved in Republican political affairs such as delegating for 8 national conventions, said “I think that when you get married you have consented to sex…That’s what marriage is all about, I don’t know if maybe these girls missed sex ed” (“Meet the marital rape”, 2015). Clearly there are people still today who do not understand that marital rape is, indeed, rape.
No one should be able to tell you what to do with your body, when you want to have sex and who you should have sex with except for YOU. If you take anything away from this, remember that you are in control of your own body, and no man or woman--even if you married them--should take that away from you.
Kelsey Doucette is a graduate student pursuing a Master’s degree in Couple and Family Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.