Domestic Violence and Marital Rape

April 27th, 2017

Content Warning(s): Domestic Violence, Rape, Spousal or Marital Rape

Day twenty-seven! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!

A week or so ago, I was lucky to stumble across this PSA against domestic violence on my Facebook feed:

Personally, I think they could have left it at the point where the woman puts her hand in her hair; I don't know that the survivor needed to say it aloud in the ad, though the idea of breaking the stigma of talking about it isn't a bad thing. I like that the ad shows that domestic violence is still something people feel uncomfortable talking about in countries other than the U.S. (in this case, Bangladesh).

In another article, I mentioned that there was recently a "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" campaign to raise awareness for and work to end domestic violence. This, of course, is a noble effort, however, it has the same issue as this PSA: it emphasizes women as the target of domestic violence, turning it into a women's issue and rather excluding anyone who doesn't fit in this category. Often in other campaigns against domestic violence, an image of someone with a black eye or bruise will be shown. I really like that this one emphasized a woman's hair as something she was self-conscious about - on the surface in the world of the ad, it could seem as though she was vain or trying to be fashionable or have her Hollywood-movie transformation. But for this woman, her hair was a reminder of specific trauma. I know a lot of people who have cut their hair after big life changes; I know I cut my own hair sizably last year in an effort to shake off a bad situation. For me, the ad was very effective.

What about the other aspect of domestic partner violence? Marital rape wasn't legally considered a crime in all U.S. states until 1993, and South Carolina STILL requires excessive force/violence in marital rape cases brought to court. From "traditional" (possibly I mean "religious" here) values, the idea arose that a rape occurring in marriage isn't rape because the people involved have pledged their lives to each other. It was a wife's "duty" to please her husband and whether or not there was consent on her behalf didn't matter. We know these values to be incorrect today, as anyone in a marriage should have the same right as anyone not to be raped. Unfortunately, it seems that relationships wherein marital rape occurs often are relationships with increased domestic violence.

Along with rape within a marriage, there's also a practice called "reparatory marriage" that may still exist today in some cultures. In this practice, a woman who was raped (and therefore has "lost her virginity" and rendered her "without marital value" - resounding "ew" on my part, feel free to read the Elizabeth Smart article) is married off to her rapist, who must provide for her and cannot divorce her. This leads to more violence in the marriage in addition to the initial rape. I can't imagine what it must be like to be forced to marry your rapist.

Again, most of these situations build the image of domestic violence and marital rape as female survivors and male attackers. This isn't always the case; anyone could endure it, and anyone could be a perpetrator. Additionally, regardless of whether you're married to your partner or still legally single, any form of domestic violence, sexual coercion, or assault/rape is not okay.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be the harsh truth about the character Dezel from Tales of Zestiria, and how Rose's story serves as a metaphor for assault and rape culture.


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