Blog Header

Degrees of violation

It is sometimes claimed that because a woman expects to have sex with her husband, and has probably had sex with him before, marital rape is less traumatic, severe or reprehensible than other kinds of rape. This argument is used to justify marital immunity for rape.

Our FAQ points out that there is simply no evidence to support the idea that marital rape causes less distress than other kinds of rape. The impact of sexual violence on physical and psychological well-being depends very much on the individuals involved. The fact that some victims may recover sooner or more easily from an experience than others does not excuse the acts of those who rape.

Case law recognises that consensual sexual intercourse between perpetrator and victim prior to or after an incident of rape does not necessarily mean that the rape is less severe. In PP v Mohammed Liton Mohammed Syeed Malik, the court recognised that a pre-existing sexual relationship between victim and perpetrator was not automatically a mitigating or aggravating factor, but should be considered in all the circumstances of the case to determine its bearing on the seriousness of that case. Sometimes it has no significance at all. The same evidence-based approach should be taken with marital rape.

Rape is not simply a rougher version of ordinary, consensual, mutually respectful sex. It is experienced by its victim as an entirely different act – just as eating a good meal is entirely different from having the same food forced down your throat, or an enjoyable swim is entirely different from someone forcing your head underwater. Expecting to sometimes engage in mutual acts of intimacy with your husband cannot automatically make it less distressing when the same man violates, humiliates and dominates you against your will. The idea is wholly illogical.

The eloquent testimony of the victims featured in Get Rea! demonstrates that victims of marital rape may feel trapped, betrayed, frightened and violated. Both women interviewed feared for their health following the assaults, and one reported contracting a sexually transmitted infection from her husband. ‘Lily’ tells us how the husband who raped her “has cost me a lot. My personality, my life, my marriage, my wasted life.” Once you consider the reality of their experiences, the argument about degrees of violation appears very hollow indeed.

Be Sociable, Share!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 at 9:23 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply