MN House Gets With The Times Of 1993, Votes To Outlaw Marital Rape Exceptions
On Thursday, the Minnesota House unanimously voted to get rid of the remaining marital rape exceptions the state has on the books. Though technically it was not legal to rape one's spouse in the state, there were exceptions for spouses when it came to criminal prosecution. For instance, it was not considered a crime "if the actor and complainant were adults cohabiting in an ongoing voluntary sexual relationship at the time of the alleged offense," in situations where the complainant was "physically helpless" or, oddly, riding in a car with the alleged perpetrator. This also included situations wherein the victim was drugged, unknowingly, by their spouse, and then raped. Like, your husband could slip a roofie into your drink, rape you, and that was perfectly legal.
Rep. Zack Stephenson, the bill's lead author, told lawmakers before the 130-0 vote Thursday that repealing the "marital rape exception" will result in seven additional convictions per year.
The Coon Rapids Democrat paid tribute to a woman who testified in committee how her now ex-husband drugged her and made a video of himself raping her while she was unconscious, as her 4-year-old child slept nearby. Prosecutors dropped sexual assault charges after her husband raised the "voluntary relationship defense." He served just 30 days in jail for invasion of privacy.
After the vote, lawmakers turned and applauded the woman, who was watching from the gallery.
Marital rape, of any kind, was legal in all states until the late 1970s. In 1978, John Rideout, the first man to be charged with raping his wife, was found innocent by a jury of eight women and four men, despite the state having declared marital rape to be illegal just a few years earlier.
They were easily convinced by his lawyer, who argued:
"A woman who's still in a marriage is presumably consenting to sex… Maybe this is the risk of being married, you know?... If this law's interpretation isn't corrected it will bring a flock of rape cases under very bad circumstances… The remedy is to get out of the marital situation."
Rape! The risk of being married! And to think, many people consider these times to be "the good old days."
Outrage over the case led to more and more states putting laws against marital rape on the books, though it actually didn't become illegal in every state until 1993, when Oklahoma and North Carolina finally got on board.
However, like Minnesota, there are still certain exceptions in some states that hinder prosecution of marital rape by treating it as something different from any other rape. South Carolina's situation is currently the worst. If you are raped by your spouse in South Carolina, you have only 30 days to press charges if the rape involved "the use or the threat to use a weapon … or physical violence of a high and aggravated nature" -- a much higher level of of violence is required to prove rape than in a situation where the actor and complainant are not married. In several states, it's still totally cool for your spouse to rape you so long as he (or she!) drugs you first.
It's good that Minnesota is finally getting these exceptions off the books, but it sure is horrifying that it has taken so long to get there. Hopefully, the remaining states where there are exceptions for marital rape will soon follow suit.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse