Spousal Rape

Spousal rape is a form of domestic violence which involves the forced sexual intercourse of a spouse (husband or wife) by the other spouse. Although two people may be married, state law still dictates that intercourse must still be consensual. This means that when one spouse forces another to have sexual intercourse against his or her will, this may be considered rape.

Because rape is defined as any type of forced or non-consensual intercourse, this type of sexual conduct between married partners may be considered a criminal offense. Marital rape may be committed by physical force, by threats of injury to the victim or another person, or it may be committed against a spouse who is incapacitated, drugged or unconscious. Engaging in sexual intercourse with a person who is asleep may even be considered rape in some circumstances.

Conjugal Rights and Marital Rape

Spousal rape is a newer concept. The idea of conjugal rights initially made the idea of marital "rape" impossible, as a spouse had the legal right to sexual intercourse with the other. Though it is now illegal throughout the United States, the last state outlawed spousal rape less than 20 years ago. In 1975, South Dakota was the first state to pass spousal rape legislation. North Carolina was the last state to outlaw spousal rape, in 1993. In other countries, spousal rape is still not recognized as a possibility.

Specific penalties and the definition of spousal rape will vary from state to state, county to county. Depending on the manner in which the alleged offense was carried out (for example, by physical violence or force), the defendant's criminal history and various other circumstances surrounding the case, a defendant may face felony charges and, if convicted, prison time, fines and sex offender registration. The alleged victim may also seek a restraining order against the perpetrator to prevent continued abuse.

Discuss spousal rape with a legal professional to learn more about this offense and your legal rights. Click here to find a local criminal defense lawyer.