Marital Rape: When Violation is at the Hands of Your Intimate Partner

I can’t remember much from the night, but I know had never felt more used, ashamed, betrayed, and disgusted.

I had consented to sex with him numerous times throughout our almost 15-year marriage. Living in an abusive and toxic relationship, sex was like a whirlwind of emotions. I either felt the high of feeling desired and wanted in those euphoric moments or the low of sleeping with him even after he treated me as if I was disposable with very little self-esteem left inside of me.

But this time was much different.

Months prior, I decided to take my three boys out of the abusive atmosphere and leave my then-husband. Both of my parents passed away when I was 18 years old, and I had been a stay-at-home-mom for many years, so I had nothing and nowhere to go. After staying with a friend, we landed in a hotel for almost 6 weeks. I still don’t know how I managed it, but every few days, someone would bless us with the money to stay until the days added up. I was also substitute teaching, but it brought in very little income.

Mentally and emotionally, I was not in the best state. My brain was glitching like a computer with a virus attacking it from years of brainwashing, gaslighting, and now homelessness. I was trying to parent three small children from a hotel room, packing lunchboxes from what I could fit in the mini-fridge. Some nights, I was weak. I would allow my ex-husband to visit us in the hotel, even consenting a few times to have sex with him when the kids were asleep. I was a mess as it was still very fresh at that time.

The night that was the last time I ever had sex with him was the night that haunts me to this day. He called me and sweetly asked if he could see the kids. He wanted “family time,” including playing a board game together. He said we could have dinner and a drink. Unfortunately, he talked me into it as my “mom guilt” and loneliness overtook logic.

He came in, and we had a wonderful time with the kids. They were so happy to have both of their parents together. He tucked them into bed and asked if I wanted a drink. I remember having one beverage and a quarter of another one. Moments later, things became fuzzy. I became very lethargic and started to pass out. All I remember was him getting on top of me, and then I blacked out.

Around 5 a.m., I woke up confused and startled. I looked around the room, and my kids were there, but my then-husband was nowhere to be found. My clothes were off, and I knew sex had occurred. Then something horrific in my gut spoke to me, “check your purse.” My heart pounded out of my chest when I reached for my wallet, and my debit card was gone. I checked my account and $180 had been withdrawn in the middle of the night. It was almost all of the money I had in my account and what was intended for the next few days of hotel stay for my boys and me. All I could do was cry hysterically.

He had taken advantage of me in so many ways that night. When I finally got ahold of him, he claimed he started to have sex with me “but stopped because he was grossed out by things I was saying to him.” He also claimed that he was so distraught by my actions that it caused him to take my money and buy drugs. He already had a long history with drugs, and that was a major reason I left to begin with, but he was still trying to shift blame onto me. He said I wanted it. He said I wanted to have sex with him.

That moment messed me up inside. I was a virgin when I married him. Our first time having sex was on our wedding night, and our last time having sex was far from that honeymoon. It took me a long time to call it rape. I felt responsible in some ways. I blamed the alcohol, my letting him in, the fact that I had consented just recently before that instance, etc. Rape sounded like something that I didn’t “deserve” to claim. I was so blacked out that I didn’t even know what to call it. The feeling of not knowing what happened to me felt so disgusting and shameful on its own.

I’ll never know if I was drugged that night. I look back to many other occasions where I am starting to piece together where that may have been done to me in the past by him. I don’t believe anything hardcore was put in my system, but even a simple sleeping aid mixed with alcohol could do a lot to a person. I now believe this was all a setup to begin with, but in those moments after that night, I was so confused.

In the months after, I allowed other men to treat me like an object. I so badly wanted to feel admired, and I started to believe the lie that my body was the way to get that. I also realized I had a true fear of telling a man, “No,” after what I endured through the years of abuse. It wasn’t until my healing journey that I realized that I was deceived, that I was not just an object, that I deserved true love that owed nothing in return, and that night at the hotel was significant and not my fault. I could finally say it was rape, and that alone brought me so much freedom and healing.

Marital Rape IS Rape

Although true statistics are hard to come by because of cases not perused legally like my own, 14% of women who are or have been married report that their spouse raped them, and of those cases, 23% claim sexual assault and rape being the only abuse in their relationship. This shows that although at least 50 % of women who were raped by their spouses are victims of other types of abuse, it is not always the case. One-tenth of all reported sexual assaults include allegations against a woman’s husband or ex-husband. Imagine if cases that aren’t reported were brought into this data. Marital rape is a very prevalent problem. (ICASA, 2000)

The most horrifying part with all this research is that marital rape just became illegal in all 50 states on July 5, 1993 (Bergen & Barnhill, 2006). Yes, up until less than 30 years ago, it was legal to rape your spouse in many areas of the country. With that being said, there are still ways that marital rapists can get away with their crimes. In my case, because my ex-husband didn’t use force, and I was impaired by a substance, in many states I would not be able to have him prosecuted (Rodriguez, 2021). It’s a very sad reality that many people still look at wives as “property” of their husbands, and that includes sexually.

Studies also show that victims of marital rape are less likely to view it as rape, to begin with (Jaffe et al., 2021). I dealt with this myself. This was the man I loved and consented to sex with for many years. I was brainwashed and abused for so long that even in his sexual abuse in our marriage, I still found ways to take responsibility and protect him for a very long time. I now can see where sexual abuse happened even more times than that night, with and without marital rape, and that it wasn’t my fault.

Get help!

If you have been raped by your spouse, it is just as much a violation and crime as if a stranger did it to you. In fact, it’s that much more hurtful because it’s from the one who is supposed to protect you. It’s not love. It’s coercion. Talk to us at BTSADV or your local domestic violence center, and even if legal action can’t be pursued, take the steps needed to heal from the trauma that you have endured. Give yourself permission to call it rape and take the time needed to process what it is.

Love should never be taken by force, manipulation, or against your will. Sex is meant to be consensual every single time. If you consented 500 times but not 1, it’s still rape, no matter who the perpetrator is. Healthy relationships never demand sex, and it’s not your fault.

References

Bergen R. K. & Barnhill, E. (2006). Marital rape: New research and directions. VAWnet: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. https://vawnet.org/material/marital-rape-new-research-and-directions

Jaffe, A. E., Steel, A. L., DiLillo, D., Messman-Moore, T., & Gratz, K. L. (2021). Characterizing sexual violence in intimate relationships: An examination of blame attributions and rape acknowledgment. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(1-2), 469-490. http://dx.doi.org.lp.hscl.ufl.edu/10.1177/0886260517726972

Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA). (2000). Marital rape. Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault. https://www.rainn.org/pdf-files-and-other-documents/Public-Policy/Issues/Marital_Rape.pdf

Rodriguez, B, (2021, May 28). Why bills to end spousal rape loopholes hit snags. The 19th. https://19thnews.org/2021/05/why-bills-to-end-spousal-rape-loopholes-hit-snags/