Spousal rape is a rape that is less talked about in conversations about rape and rape culture because the power dynamic is more than just that of the perpetrator and the victim.
It is a rape that occurs between a husband and wife (or husband-husband or wife-wife).
In the state of Ohio, a person can be charged with rape if they impair another person’s judgment or self-control to prevent their resistance. This could be done through giving the victim drugs, controlled substances or any other intoxicant through force, intimidation or lying.
Spousal rape wasn’t included into Ohio law until 1986, but it was only if there was “force” or a “threat of force.” Situations where one spouse drugs another without their knowledge and rapes do not qualify as spousal rape under the law.
This is a loophole that victim advocates and state representatives are trying to close with House Bill 97, but only 17 lawmakers—all of them Democrats—have signed to co-sponsor this bill.
H.B. 97 would eliminate spousal exceptions for rape, sexual bettery, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, gross sexual imposition and public indecency. Currently, spouses can only be charged with these crimes if the victim is either not their spouse or is their spouse but they live separately.
First, we have to establish that regardless if it is between two people who are married, rape is still rape and it can occur in marriages. Being married to someone does not stop human beings from being able to consent to sex on their own terms.
Second, the state government has to know (or should know by this point through H.B. 97) the spousal exemption of force or threat of force is hard to prove in the court of law. A victim spouse could have physical injury done to them due to the crime, but it would be disputed by courts as to whether or not the injury happened because of the rape or because of something else. A threat of force can easily be seen in courts as “he said/she said.” Both of these exemptions already make it hard for spouses to report cases of rape because not only are these two statutes going to be hard to prove in court, but the lack of presence could prevent spouses from getting rape kits in hospitals.
If we eliminate these exemptions from spousal rape, we may be able to see a start in spouses reporting their rapes and justice being served for these people, regardless if the perpetrator was their partner. Marital status and living situations should not be issues that are exempted from rape cases.
Last, I find it to be unsurprisingly disgusting that there is not a single Republican in the General Assembly who has co-sponsored this bill. While we have heard and seen our fair share of Republicans say horrid things about rape, abortion and Planned Parenthood, anyone– regardless of political party–should be able to see the importance of eliminating this loophole.
Rape is horrid and traumatic the United Nations considers it a war crime. It is unfair to believe rape cannot happen between two people just because they have their names on a marriage license together. Rape does not discriminate; rape is illegal and a crime. No one, not even spouses, should be exempt from being tried for that crime.
This column has been formatted for the internet and edited by the original author.
This column first appeared in the independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.