Legally, marital rape wasn’t a crime in every state until 1993. And today, many states still have marital rape loopholes in certain sexual assault laws.
Earlier this year, Minnesota repealed one such loophole. Legally, forcible marital rape was considered a crime, but not rapes that occurred when the partner was drugged or unconscious. One woman, Jenny Teeson, fought for the loophole to be abolished after her own experiences in court. When undergoing divorce proceedings, she discovered a flash drive of videos of her then-husband sexually assaulting her while she was drugged and unconscious, and turned those videos over to the police. The husband was at first charged with third-degree criminal sexual assault against an incapacitated victim, but the charge were dropped because of the marital rape loophole. (He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and served 30 days in county jail.)
“I thought if I can’t have the law be in place to keep myself, my kids and my community safe, I could wallow in it, or I could do something about it,” Teeson told the Associated Press.
Minnesota has since closed its legal loophole, but there is still so much work to be done.
17 states still have loopholes for marital rape
According to a 2019 report by AEquitas, a resource for prosecutors, 17 states still have some form of legal exemption for people who rape their partners when they are are drugged or incapacitated: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington and Wyoming.
At least one in 10 married women will experience marital rape
According to data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), between 10 and 14% of married women will experience marital rape.
Marital rape is four times more common than stranger rape
One study found that among women who had ever been married, rapes committed by husbands or ex-husbands were four times more common than rapes committed by strangers.
Almost one in five female marital rape survivors say their children witnessed the assault
Eighteen percent of female survivors of marital rape say their children witnessed the crime, according to data from NCADV.
Marital and intimate partner rapes are under-reported
According to one study, 77% of women raped by a husband or boyfriend did not report it to the police, compared to 61% of women raped by a friend and 54% of women raped by a stranger.