Marital Rape: Conflicting Constructions of Reality
Women Against Violence: An Australian Feminist Journal, Vol. 3, pp. 23-30
8 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2009 Last revised: 20 Jun 2018
Date Written: 1997
Marital rape is one manifestation of violence in the home. It involves more additional injuries than sexual assault by any other type of perpetrator. Yet, there is a dearth of literature in Australia – a silence that appears to have continued despite recent legislative changes that have abolished the immunity of husbands from prosecution for rape.
The current article examines three dimensions of the crime and how they are experienced by the victims and constructed within the courts: incidence, the dynamics or nature, and the effects. Differences are apparent with few rapes prosecuted, the nature of coercion interpreted narrowly by the court without a recognition of the range of duress that can be a part of a violent marriage, and the harms often inimized by judges who see the rapist’s marital tie to his victim as a mitigator. These examples indicate the need for women’s experiences to be validated and their reality reconstructed in the society and in the law.
Keywords: marital rape, domestic violence
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