Sexual abuse in existing relationships

One type of rape that gets less attention and focus is the one which takes place within established relationships or marriage. A main reason as to why rape within such contexts is given less prominence is because the victims do not realise or accept that they have been abused.

Sexual abuse within relationships takes place when unwanted penetration or excessive physical contact ensues. This can be accompanied with threats and physical force when consent for sexual activity is not given.

When sexual abuse takes place within marriage, the act is referred to as “marital rape.” It can be compared to other forms of domestic violence where control and dominance are exerted on the victim. According to studies on the subject, rape by intimate partners is more common than that by strangers.

In today’s society, marital rape is illegal. In the past, in several countries, rape was mainly defined as taking place with someone other than one’s spouse. Within the context of the law, it was presumed that rape could not occur within marriage and consent by the wife was automatically assumed. Although efforts have been made to shed light on marital rape, several countries still do not acknowledge this possibility.

Irrespective of the progress already made, marital rape is rarely reported and therefore prosecutions are minimal. Several women around the world are not aware about the legal parameters which surround such type of rape. They would also be less inclined to report due to the social stigma. Proving sexual abuse within existing relationships can be difficult especially when no physical injuries are evident.

Another reason why women feel uncomfortable reporting marital or relationship rape is because they would be afraid of the reputational damage surrounding their husband or partner. The desire to keep these matters secret would sometimes be too great. In these circumstances, it is also difficult for women to accept that they are victims. From an emotional point of view, it would be tough to accept this trauma especially when dealing with someone who is meant to offer love and support. This becomes more complicated for spouses who are economically dependent.

The repercussions of rape in existing relationships or marriage can be severe. The shock and betrayal can lead to several issues, with long-term and sometimes permanent psychological damage.

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