Marital Rapes: A Crime Less Acknowledged

Hardly a week passes, nowadays, not getting to know of a rape case. Being a woman, it hurts every time I hear such a piece of news and the description of barbaric, perverted thirst quenchers who ruin the lives of women; make it a living hell. What has recently caught my attention though, is the lesser known twin of this crime; Marital Rapes.

Marriage in most countries is by mutual consent. A couple invests trust, feelings and presumably their whole life in the unison. However, for some the picture doesn’t turn out to be rosy. Domestic violence isn’t new, sadly it’s something that exists and doesn’t get reported until the victim’s bearing power lasts. For fear of stigmas, the victims let the atrocities continue.

Marital rape is also a part of the rampant domestic abuse throughout the world.It is assumed generally, that a woman will surrender consent upon entering marriage, however this might not be the case every time, but does that give her partner the right to force her or abuse her for it?

Most people have a very stereotypical concept of “rape” , that is a possibility only with a stranger and thus do not acknowledge it as a crime. Also, studies and researches conducted on victims suggest otherwise, the trauma of a victim of marital rape is much more than in case of a stranger rape, as in the former case the victim might not be able to reach out for any support and the ordeal may continue.

“Marital rape is so destructive because it betrays the fundamental basis of the marital relationship, because it questions every understanding you have not only of your partner and the marriage, but of yourself. You end up feeling betrayed, humiliated and, above all, very confused.”

No doubt that rape itself is an unparalleled ordeal, but having a history with the rapist increases the agony , in some cases dilutes the ability to react and thus more harmful.

I would like to quote some statistics I happened to come across—

Diana E.H. Russell, a researcher on rape, reports that 8% of 900 randomly selected women in the U.S. reported they had been raped by a husband. A survey by the National Victim Center in Arlington, Virginia, states that 10% of all sexual assault cases reported by women involved a husband or ex-husband.

In 1975, the results of an American study on many rape situations were published. Russell was so appalled by her findings on rape in marriage that she decided to conduct a research project on this area alone. From the 930 interviews conducted with women from a cross section of race and class, Russell concluded that rape in marriage was the most common yet most neglected area of sexual violence (Russell, 1990)

In 1994, Patricia Easteal, then Senior Criminologist at the Australian Institute of Criminology, published the results of survey on sexual assault in many settings. The respondents were survivors of numerous forms of sexual assault. Of these, 10.4% had been raped by husbands or de facto spouses, with a further 2.3 per cent raped by estranged husbands/de factos. .

David Finkelhor and Kersti Yllo’s 1985 study estimated that 10 to 14 per cent of all married American women have been or will be raped by their husbands. (Finkelhor and Yllo, 1985)

In the UK, statistics disseminated by the Rape Crisis Federation yield the information that the most common rapists are current and ex-husbands or partners (Myhill & Allen, Rape and Sexual Assault of Women: Findings from the British Crime Survey)”

The problem aggravates as it is crime which is not easy to prosecute. Even today there are some countries where it is not recognized as a crime.

Did you know—

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.”

In other countries where it recently has been recognized, victims hardly speak out. Most of them rather question themselves and their right to say “NO”, because they are married!

In a country like ours where awareness of such atrocities is almost nil among 70-80% of the people, it is a crime that goes unnoticed and isn’t even reported.

Women continue to cry in their hearts and pray for a better married life where they have a say, where they both are happy. But the sad part is even today marriage is not about ‘them’ and so a woman is denied rights, is caged , can scream but shouldn’t be heard, can cry but shouldn’t be seen, is raped and shouldn’t be a victim.

Ironical as it is, but something such as marital rape should be acknowledged as no less a crime. Just because a woman leaves her own house to live in with her husband doesn’t mean she leaves behind her dignity, her right to humanity and her emotions. We need to assure those who are a victim that things can change for them and as for others, I hope we can do away with apprehensions of conventions and norms and believe in humanity for once. For once speak out and not be afraid of the consequences and help out those in need.

Meghna Baveja

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