Child Safety Trumps Spousal Immunity

spotlight Please enjoy another insightful post from our AmeriCorps member, Evan Abramsky.

Disclaimer: This is not an article about Donald Trump, however, I have to thank the Donald for inspiring this discussion.

Over the last few weeks, the nation has been captivated by the rise of Donald Trump to the position of front-runner in the Republican Party’s long list of candidates seeking the party’s nomination, regardless of his inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants, Senator John McCain, and countless others. As a potential nominee, the media has begun to thoroughly comb over Trump’s past, and recently unearthed allegations of rape that were made against Mr. Trump by his ex-wife, Ivana Trump in 1989. In an interview last week, Michael Cohen, a close adviser of Donald Trump, was questioned about these allegations by a reporter from The Daily Beast. In response, Cohen denied the allegations on the pretense that “you cannot rape your spouse.”
Mr. Cohen’s comments are of course blatantly incorrect, but are valuable for shedding light on an issue that many fail to think about or even accept as possible: spousal rape. Regardless of whether or not the allegations against Donald Trump are accurate, they do have many in the media discussing the issue, which can only help to raise greater awareness.
Little research has been done to determine the prevalence of spousal rape—in fact, only two studies of the issue have been conducted: one in San Francisco, and another in Boston. According to the studies, approximately 1 in 10 married women were victims of spousal rape. It is well established by other studies that approximately 30% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a male lover, and that the chances of spousal rape and sexual assault are significantly increased when domestic violence is present. These are not isolated incidents, as the data indicates that a large majority of victims reported multiple incidents of rape. It is not clear whether those statistics differ significantly amongst social groups, as further research is necessary.
For those working in the domestic violence field, it is key to consider the possibility of sexual abuse in domestic violence cases as another tool in the perpetrator’s pattern of behavior and that if it is determined that sexual abuse is present, proper medical and legal services be notified. Spousal rape can also occur in the presence of children and children can be forced into participating by a perpetrator, as child abuse and domestic violence are often interconnected.

Information and resources regarding spousal rape can be found at RAINN, Pandora’s Project, and Aphrodite Wounded.