Dr. Ducharme’s Blog May 14, 2018

May 14, 2018

Contrary to some popular opinions, rape can occur within the confines of a marriage. Whenever sexual consent isn’t given, but is instead forced upon someone, this meets the definition of rape. Marital rape is one of the hidden statistics that is rarely talked about and part of the reason might be that it hasn’t always been illegal. Spousal rape wasn’t completely illegal in the United States until 1993. Even with it being illegal, prosecutors rarely bring a case of marital rape to trial. Most believe they will not be able to win.

Health Research Funding reports the following statistics.

 30% of adult rape cases were committed by husbands, common-law partners, or boyfriends.

 When domestic violence is part of a relationship, the chances of spousal rape occurring rise by 70%.
In one major study, only 16% of rape victims ever notified local law enforcement about the incident.
Women from religious backgrounds are more likely to accept spousal rape because they fear being labeled a “sinner” because of a possible divorce or having a spouse that commits adultery.
More women are upset about threats to leave a marriage or to stop loving her [83%] than they are by threats of physical violence from their spouse [70%].

35% of the women who are the survivor of spousal rape endured some other form of physical violence during the incident.
69% of women who are raped by their spouse are raped more than one time.
More than half of women who have reported or spoken about being raped by their husband were forced to have anal sex.
5% of women report that their husband forced their children to be part of the spousal rape incident, including engaging in sex.
The percentage of victims who say that their children witnessed the sexual assault: 18%.

Sadly, we still have difficulty helping women report sexual assault outside of a marriage and being believed. It is clearly time that we begin to look at rape within a relationship or marriage. It can happen in heterosexual and or same sex relationships. And it is always about power and control. While the emotions are being expressed in sexual acts, the reasons behind the acts may have nothing to do with sex.

Some women report to me that they have awakened in the middle of the night and discovered their husband penetrating them in some way. Others have told me that their husbands gave them sleeping pills and when they woke up they realized they had been sexually assaulted. Some report that their partner has become very sexually aroused while watching a violent show and then forced them to have sex. Many have a hard time using the words sexual assault with a marital partner. But, sex should always involve mutual consent. You can’t give consent if you are asleep or drugged.

Many women give in to sexual demands because of threats or to simply try to calm a situation.  After awhile, many feel embarrassed about their behavior, feel no one would believe them or accept that having sex whenever and wherever their marital partner wants it is their job. It is not. Healthy relationships need to be about mutual respect. Communication is key. Sometimes a partner will give the “gift of sex” to their partner even if it is not top on their priority list. That is very different that rape.

Abuse tends to escalate in relationships. So, it is important that women are aware of the red flags. These are:


Controlling behavior

Quick involvement with very intense courtship

Unrealistic expectations

Isolation from family and friends

Blames others for all his/her problems

Blames others for his/her feelings


Cruelty to animals or children

"Playful" use of force during sex that makes the partner feel uncomfortable or having sex with a sleeping partner

Verbal abuse

Rigid sex roles

Jeckyl and Hyde personality

Past history of battering

Threats of violence

Breaking, striking objects and/or throwing things

Any force/intimidation during an argument ex: "You will do as I say" or "You will listen to me"...

I urge anyone who is seeing or experiencing these red flags to talk with a psychologist or someone trained in assessment and treatment of sexual assault. Only if we begin to report what is actually happening within our homes can we educate people that marital rape and abuse of power is unacceptable can we eliminate this problem.