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The physical and emotional toll of spousal rape


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Until 1975, every state’s rape laws made exceptions for husbands. By 1993, however, the last two states — Oklahoma and North Carolina — repealed this exception and replaced it with statutes outlawing spousal rape. Unfortunately, many of those laws are nuanced, and women still struggle to seek justice against the persons to whom they said “I do.”

Rape is rape regardless of who commits it, and victims of spousal rape experience many of the same emotional and physical injuries as rape victims of strangers. Psychology Today explains the physical and psychological effects of spousal rape and why it is comparable to other forms of rape.

The real toll of spousal rape

Contrary to popular belief, spousal rape is a common occurrence. According to the data, between 10% and 14% of married women in the United States fall victim to spousal rape during their marriages. Based on the testimonies of women who came forward, the consequences of marital sexual assault are no less severe than if the perpetrator had been an acquaintance or stranger.

Physical injury is a common consequence of rape, with many women experiencing injuries to the vaginal and anal regions. These injuries often result in tearing, infertility, urinary tract infections, pelvic pain, bladder infections, miscarriages and sexually transmitted infections. In 50% of reported spousal rape cases, the victims sustained injuries to other areas of their bodies. These injuries often stemmed from burns, hits, kicks and stabs.

In at least 17% of cases, victims of marital rape experienced unwanted pregnancies. Of that 17%, 20% went on to have miscarriages or stillbirths.

Sadly, victims of spousal rape are likely to live through multiple instances of assault. Moreover, their perpetrators were likely loved and trusted individuals. Given these two facts, these victims often go on to live with severe and long-lasting emotional consequences. Though the emotional backlash varies from person to person, common effects include shock, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, PTSD and suicidal ideation.

Colorado does not consider “marriage” a defense against rape

Unfortunately, many state laws contain loopholes that make it easy for married men to sexually assault their wives without consequence. Colorado is not one of those states. According to FindLaw, “marriage” is not a viable defense against sexual assault or rape. Victims of spousal rape and assault enjoy the same protections as all others.

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