Can husband rape wife

Is Marital Rape Illegal? How Do You Prove Marital Rape?

Every state makes it a crime to commit marital or spousal rape.

By Rebecca Pirius, Attorney

Marital or spousal rape is illegal in every state, but it's only been this way since 1993. Until 1976, every state had a "marital exemption" that allowed a husband to rape his wife without fear of legal consequences. Despite being illegal now, certain states still treat spousal or marital rape differently than other rape offenses.

What Is Marital Rape or Spousal Rape?

The terms "marital rape" and "spousal rape" describe engaging in nonconsensual sexual activity with one's spouse. The aggressor can be the husband or wife, and the victim may be a spouse of the opposite or same sex. Any person who uses force, threats, violence, or other means to coerce sex from their spouse without consent commits rape, just as if the same conduct occurred between unmarried persons.

Is Marital Rape Punished the Same as Other Rape Crimes?

All states now recognize rape within marriage as a crime, and most charge the crime in the same way that rape involving a non-spouse would be charged. However, several states still have differences in the law for rape between spouses.

Less Severe Punishments for Martial Rape in Some States

Some states punish marital rape less harshly than other rape crimes. For instance, South Carolina imposes a maximum 10-year sentence for spousal sexual battery accomplished by aggravated force. However, the same crime committed by a non-spouse (criminal sexual conduct) carries up to 30 years in prison. The law even prevents prosecutors from charging a spouse with the harsher crime of criminal sexual conduct. Also, in South Carolina, a prosecution for spousal sexual battery may not proceed unless the offending spouse's conduct was reported to law enforcement within 30 days of the event. (S.C. Code §§ 16-3-615, -652, -658 (2022).)

Marital or Spousal Rape Loopholes

Several states provide legal loopholes or defenses when it comes to prosecuting marital rape. For instance, New York provides a defense to sex crimes if the defendant is married to the victim and the crime is based on lack of consent due to a mental disability or age. (N.Y. Penal Law § 130.00 (2022).) California law includes a similar loophole by stating that a spouse cannot commit rape based on lack of consent due to the victim's mental disorder, developmental disability, or physical disability. (Cal. Penal Code § 261 (2022).)

How Do Prosecutors Prove Marital Rape?

Prosecuting a marital rape case comes with complications, especially given the nature of the relationship between the defendant and victim. Spouse-victims of marital rape have the trauma of sexual assault by their partner, the person with whom they live, and often, the parent of their children—on top of the trauma all rape victims experience. Social stigma, the impact on children, and family shame may also add to the pressures a person faces when considering whether to testify in a case of marital rape. Jurors sometimes doubt that a husband actually raped his own wife.

However, prosecutors have tools available to help in these cases. Marital rape often involves domestic violence, which many offices now have experience prosecuting. Prosecutors might not need to rely solely on the spouse-victim's testimony. Other evidence showing domestic violence in the relationship can be helpful to the case, especially when explaining to jurors the dynamics of control and power in intimate relationships. Prosecutors might also charge other crimes that occurred around or at the same time as the sexual assault, such as stalking, assault, battery, criminal threats, and strangulation.

What Are the Penalties for Marital Rape?

Many states penalize marital rape like any other rape. Typically, the applicable punishment will vary according to the severity of the circumstances of the crime. Rape that involves force, threats of force, weapons, or physical harm tends to carry the most severe penalties, with possible prison sentences of 25 to 50 years or more. Other types of rape not involving force or harm might have sentences of 10 to 20 years' prison time.

As noted above, some states have more lenient penalties available for someone convicted of raping a spouse. South Carolina is a prime example, with a maximum penalty that is 20 years shorter for spousal rape than other types of rape. Another interesting example involves Virginia law. Here, the court may defer prosecution and waive fines and prison time if the defendant-spouse successfully completes a court-approved counseling program. This option is available only if the victim agrees to it, and may only be used once. While this might sound like it provides an opportunity for reconciliation, it actually allows an abuser to intimidate a victimized spouse into approving lesser penalties—something that other victims may not do. (Va. Code § 18.2-61 (2022).)

Finding a Lawyer

Anyone facing rape charges should consult with a criminal defense attorney. A defense lawyer can help you understand the charges and possible penalties, develop a defense strategy, and protect your constitutional rights.

Help for Sexual Abuse and Rape Survivors

If you are a victim of rape or sexual abuse, contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for help and referrals to local resources. You can find their information online at or by calling 800-656-HOPE (4673).

Marital Rape Is Still Legal

In the summer of 2017, Jenny Teeson made a horrifying discovery.

Teeson, who had begun divorce proceedings from her husband of 12 years in Minnesota, was looking through files from their shared laptop when she discovered photos and videos of her husband raping her while she was unconscious. Teeson's husband had been drugging her with his prescription sleeping medication and then assaulting her — and she had no idea.

All of the sudden, things started to make sense. Teeson said she remembers waking up many times in the morning feeling lethargic and disoriented but had no idea why. She had even gone to the doctor to try to figure out what was wrong.

"When I found these videos, I was in utter shock, but then it all clicked. I now knew what had been happening and why I had been feeling so disoriented when I woke up. "

Teeson's now ex-husband was initially charged with a felony — third degree criminal sexual conduct — but the charges were dropped the same day. Due to a legal loophole in Minnesota's law at that time, raping your incapacitated spouse was not illegal if you were married or cohabitating at the time of the offense.

"If I wasn't his wife or cohabitating with him when he raped me, the felony charges would have stayed, but since I was … the state didn't consider my rapes illegal. A rapist is not always a violent stranger. It can happen to you right in your own bed," Teeson said.

Teeson's ex-husband was never prosecuted for the felony rape charge due to this loophole, but he was charged with two misdemeanors — criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree, which was later dismissed, and interfering with privacy in the home — for which he took a plea deal and served just 29 days in jail.

These legal loopholes surrounding marital rape are not uncommon. Many states have exceptions when it comes to spousal rape. Although marital rape is technically illegal in the United States, some states' archaic laws exclude situations where a spouse is unable to consent because they are incapacitated. Incredibly, even if their partner drugged them, it's not considered "forcible" and, therefore, is not a criminal offense.

Aequitas, a nonprofit organization fighting for justice in gender-based violence cases, reported in 2019 that 20 U.S. jurisdictions "have spousal exemptions for offenses that criminalize sexual conduct based on the victim's lack of capacity to consent to that conduct."

The legal system's continued denial of marital rape is rooted, in large part, in turn of the century marriage laws where women were viewed as their husband's property and the dangerous notion that a preexisting relationship meant irrevocable consent. While laws have changed in the past 50 years, marital rape is often still ignored. In fact, the legal definition of rape in the United States originally did not even include a spouse and was defined as nonconsensual sexual conduct with someone other than your spouse.

It wasn't until 1993 that rape laws were changed in all 50 states to include a spouse, overwhelmingly due to the ongoing efforts of women's rights groups, but loopholes and spousal exceptions — like what happened to Teeson — remain.

"No means no under any circumstances. Marriage vows generally include promises to love each other and to be there for each other in sickness and in health — they do not promise to provide sexual relations when one person says no," wrote Dr. Jennifer Payne, director of the Johns Hopkins Women's Mood Disorders Center and a member of HealthyWomen's Women's Health Advisory Council, in an email exchange

The statistics on sexual violence are staggering. Over 45% of rape victims are attacked by an intimate partner. Marital rape victims are also in heightened danger because they may still live with their assailant and can be repeatedly attacked — especially if the rapist knows they won't be prosecuted. Marital rape is also intertwined with domestic violence. Abusers often sexually assault their partner during a physical attack, and victims can be threatened with more violence if they don't go along with their abuser's sexual demands.

After the felony charges were dropped, Teeson said she knew she had to do something to change the law. "This is bigger than just my case," Teeson recalled thinking. "I needed to speak up for others, and I knew I was going to fight." Teeson began working with local legislators in Minnesota. In 2019, a long overdue change finally came when Governor Walz signed a bill repealing the state's legal loophole.

But changing state laws has often been met with resistance. Recent attempts to repeal marital rape exemptions in Ohio, Maryland and Michigan failed. New bills have been introduced this year. In Maryland, the pending bill is being met with strong opposition from Republican lawmakers.

Maclen Stanley, J.D., Ed.M., an attorney in Los Angeles who specializes in sexual assault, said marital rape is more widespread than many realize, but it's not spoken about as much as other crimes. Law enforcement and district attorneys have also not been very responsive when it comes to investigating and prosecuting spousal rape. "District attorneys have broad discretion over what cases they prosecute. It's already a difficult process to get a stranger rape case brought to trial — and with marital rape, it can be even harder for a survivor to get justice."

In many states, even when marital rapists are convicted, they are still given deferential treatment. In California, there is no mandatory prison sentence for a convicted spousal rapist. Virginia allows judges to set aside a prison sentence for a convicted marital rapist and replace it with counseling only. And in South Carolina, a spouse who rapes their partner is not held criminally liable unless the attack involved extreme violence, a weapon or the threat of a weapon. The state will also not prosecute if the victim doesn't report the assault within 30 days, and a convicted marital rapist can't serve more than 10 years in prison.

"This fight is not over," Teeson said. Although the law was changed in her state, she said she will continue to advocate for rape survivors and push for legislation in other states.

"This is a human rights issue. No one is the property of their spouse. I am going to keep speaking out and fighting for change until these dangerous loopholes are gone."

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) 800-656-HOPE
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE/TTY 800-787-3224
National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Fatwa. Rape in marriage: the position of Islam Is there such a thing as marital rape? Should a wife do everything her husband asks of her? Jazakum Allah khairan.

Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh!

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Merciful. All praise and thanks be to Allah, peace and blessings be upon His Messenger. Dear sister! We thank you for your trust. We call on Allah Almighty to illuminate our hearts for the truth and grant us blessings in this world and on the Day of Judgment. Amen.

To begin with, we note that Islam strives to build a strong society. Since the family is the cornerstone of society, Islam pays great attention to it in order to maintain its stability and well-being. At the same time, Islam defines the main goals of family life and clearly defines the role of each spouse. We also note that domestic violence and marital violence is a social problem that takes place in our society. This is a general problem that is not limited to a particular religion or ethnic group. This is almost never talked about, but one thing is clear - beaten wives can also be raped. Violence is a term that is used to describe sexual intercourse performed without a person's consent or against their will. Often, marital violence is treated as less serious and traumatic than other forms of violence. Research, however, suggests that marital violence is often quite more severe and traumatic than any other kind of violence.

Ordinary violence, even if no less harmful, still happens once, while marital violence, on the contrary, often lasts for years. When you are raped by your husband, you have to live with your rapist. Why does a man rape his wife? Strangely, this is not due to the refusal of a woman, which is the most common myth. The majority of women who report being raped by their husband also report consensual sexual intercourse between them. If public morality does not deter the offender from assault, then he probably will not be prohibited from coercion to sex. In light of this, it becomes clear why Islam pays great attention to the concept of mutual love between spouses and why the Holy Quran says:

"Among His signs is that He made wives out of yourselves for you, that you might find comfort in them, and established between you love and mercy."

Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiq says:

“Relationships between spouses should be based on calmness, love and mercy. Allah says:

"Among his signs is that he made wives out of yourselves for you, so that you may find comfort in them, and established between you love and mercy. Verily, in this is a sign for people who think" (Quran, 30:21).

Tranquility (sukun), love (mawadda) and mercy (rahma) are very important concepts in Islam. These three concepts summarize the ideals of Islamic marriage. Husband and wife should be a source of peace for each other. They are required to do everything physically, emotionally and spiritually to make their partner feel happy and at peace. They must take care of each other. They must not hurt each other or harm each other physically or verbally. To make married and family life even more peaceful and comfortable, they should love each other and show mercy and kindness to each other. Love and compassionate relationships are essential components of a fulfilling marriage and fulfilling family life. In an Islamic marriage, the husband is not allowed to demand from his wife that which is forbidden by Allah and which is rude and obscene. The wife also should not demand from her husband to do what Allah has forbidden and which will greatly burden him. Sex is a natural attraction and desire. Islam allows sexual intercourse only among married couples. Extramarital affairs and adultery are prohibited in Islam.

Since, according to Islam, there is no other acceptable way to realize this desire, except through marriage, spouses should be considerate to each other in this matter. On this issue, Shariah gave us 2 important principles:

1. The husband should not refuse his wife, just as the wife should not refuse her husband. Each of them should try to satisfy his spouse. Even during menstruation or postpartum hemorrhage, when sexual contact is prohibited, spouses can be together and enjoy intimacy in other ways.

2. In intimate relationships, spouses should be kind and considerate to each other. There are hadiths that report that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) expressed condemnation when he heard that some husbands abruptly begin sexual intercourse and just as abruptly withdraw after it. For example:

"A man [acts] rudely by having sexual intercourse with his wife without first playing with her." Or: "A man [acts] sinfully, [if] he attacks an unprepared wife, seeking to satisfy his lust, and leaves her before she is satisfied..."

These hadiths are given by Imam Al-Ghazali in his work "Ihya" (Edition 2: 49-50). Most hadith scholars consider these hadeeth to be weak (daif) and we cannot guarantee that these are the sayings of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), however, they contain certain wisdom and etiquette that are natural and Islamic.” Regarding the husband's right to sexual access (to his wife) and its conditions, Sheikh Ibn Al-Uthaymeen, a renowned Saudi scholar, adds: "A wife should respond to her husband if he calls her to bed. But if she is psychologically ill and cannot actively answer his call, or she has a physical illness, in such cases the husband should not insist, for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

"There must be neither harm nor retaliatory harm. "

He must either abstain or enjoy intimacy with her in a way that does not harm her." It follows that in an Islamic marriage, that is, in a marriage based on the prescriptions of Allah Almighty and the noble Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him The phenomenon of marital violence is fundamentally unacceptable. Sexual relations between husband and wife should be based on mutual love and respect. This point is emphasized by the following fatwa issued by the famous Muslim scholar, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Khanouti, a member of North American Fiqh Council: "Intimacy should be a matter of etiquette and respect, and not a matter of abstract desire. Aisha said that for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) [sex always began with] foreplay, caresses, etc., in order to This hadeeth suggests that a positive response is expected from the wife. n force his wife, but she should not express arrogance, rejection or neglect towards him, but appreciate and respect him. Her refusal to intimacy should let her husband know that she is not ready for it physically and emotionally. The husband should be wise and understand her situation. If if the wife hints at intimacy with him, he should respond in kind. The Quran says that women have as many rights as they have duties. But a man should not avoid intimacy with his wife for more than 4 months if she needs it."

Allah Almighty knows best.

Can a husband be imprisoned for raping his wife?

My husband is going to divorce tomorrow, he apparently decided to say goodbye like this: he raped in front of a child of 3.6 years. There were no beatings, except for twisting my arms, and I squeezed my throat so that I would be silent, threatening that I would hit if I resisted. he falls asleep, and back home with the child, he woke up and continued until he finished the job. "He finished" on his feet, I didn’t go to wash. he opened it completely naked.

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, Anastasia, Balabanovo


Maria Shaina

Lawyer, Kemerovo

90 Good afternoon! The plot of article 131 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation reads as follows - Rape, that is, sexual intercourse with the use of violence or with the threat of its use against the victim or to other persons, or using the helpless state of the victim,

That is, theoretically, the law does not link the possibility of criminal prosecution with the fact of marital relations. I believe it makes sense to apply to the investigative committee at the scene of the crime and a statement on bringing a person to criminal responsibility for the crime committed. In addition, in the application, describe in detail all the circumstances. witnesses, describe the behavior of the husband, child, and so on.

It is very difficult to say about the judicial prospects of this case, because in principle cases of this category are very delicate… Contact us!

Lidia Popova

Lawyer, Blagoveshchensk

But it seems to me that you should contact the police and undergo a medical examination. If the other day a divorce, yes, I understand that spouses, but to rape a wife in the presence of a child, this is no good. It seems to me that you need to apply wherever possible.

Andrey Dogadin

Lawyer, Moscow

Can be attracted. There have been such cases in practice.

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