Can you rape or sexually assault your wife? Does "no" mean "no" even in a marriage?
The answer should be obvious; rape is rape. But it's a question some have been asking since the arrest of St. Bernard Parish President, Dave Peralta, who was charged with one count of sexual battery of his wife. It's called “marital rape.” Why is it looked at differently?
Nobody in America was prosecuted with raping their wife until the late 1970's, because the criminal code allowed non-consentual sex when the attacker and survivor were married. And in Louisiana, it wasn't illegal until the mid-1990's because it used to be considered a husband's prerogative to have sexual access to his wife and to rape her if he so chose, and that's only changed pretty recently.
Research shows rape by your husband can be equally, if not more, emotionally and physically traumatizing than rape by a stranger. It also remains one of the most unreported crimes, since often children are involved, both spouses' families and communities are involved and that can turn women away from seeking legal recourse for crimes commited against them. Thanks to institutions and support systems for women who are having to face these difficult choices, help is available and recovery is possible.
I invited Tania Tetlow of the Domestic Violence Clinic at Tulane and Pam Albers of the Family Justice Center to shed some light on this important and difficult issue. Take a listen to the podcast, won't you?