Marital Rape: The Long Arch of Sexual Violence against Women and Girls

7 Pages Posted: 27 May 2016 Last revised: 13 Aug 2017

See all articles by Michele Goodwin

Michele Goodwin

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: May 26, 2016


This Essay argues that sexual violence against women and girls remains deeply entrenched and politicized around the globe. Perhaps no other allegation of crime exposes a woman’s credibility to such intense hostility and imposes the penalties of shame and stigma to a more severe degree than alleging rape. It articulates how factors irrelevant to sexual violence, including the victim’s choice of clothing, hairstyle, and time of the attack frequently serve as points of searching inquiry, and scrutiny. Such extraneous points or critique further compound an atmosphere of shaming and stigmatization associated with sexual violence, but are seen as crucial in bolstering an affirmative defense and inevitably building the case against rape victims. The Essay urges a more probing look at not only how legal systems and political actors who populate them contribute to shaming and stigmatization in cases of rape, which can chill victims’ courage to report sexual violence, but also at how law itself creates legal and extralegal obstacles and problems for rape victims. It chooses marital rape as an example.

Suggested Citation

Goodwin, Michele, Marital Rape: The Long Arch of Sexual Violence against Women and Girls (May 26, 2016). AJIL Unbound, Vol. 109, 2015, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2016-35, Available at SSRN:

Michele Goodwin (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

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