By Ray Marcano – Freelance
Dec 10, 2023
Dear Rep. Bill Dean:
I was stunned — floored, really —when I read your position on marital rape.
Last month, the Ohio House wisely voted, 74-1, to end a legal exemption that allows a spouse to rape a married partner.
You were the only one to vote no and support that exception because, as you told the USA Today Network Ohio: “I personally don’t believe that a man, if he’s married and has physical relations with his wife, that can be considered rape.”
That ignores that marriage today, whether you agree or not, can be between two men, two women, and more.
You’ve already heard from people who consider your stance one of a Neanderthal, so there’s no need to pile on. But maybe you would have a different view if you knew that as many as 14% of married women report being raped by their husbands, and nearly 1 in 5 of those victims say their children witnessed the encounter.
That doesn’t seem like love to me.
You should also listen to Jane Keiffer, who, as clinical program director of the Artemis Center, helps abused women try to put their lives back together.
Sexual assault, “can be having sex against your consent. It could be badgering to the point that you just give in because you’re done listening to it. It’s not always what we think about, someone hiding behind the bushes and attacking. It’s also that emotional abuse of wearing you down and making you feel like you’re obligated because you’re married. Just because you’re married, you’re not obligated.”
She explained, “In terms of domestic violence, it’s all about power and control. And one of the ultimate acts of domestic violence is rape. We see survivors struggling through the trauma. For some who’ve suffered the horrific experience of sexual assault, they don’t know their assailant, but many times, survivors do. And so now you’re living with this person who has assaulted you, who has taken away your sense of safety, especially when the abuser is sitting there going, ‘Well, you know you wanted to participate, it was consensual.’
Then, women who did nothing wrong start to doubt themselves. “Did I give off mix signals? Did I lead (him) on? Did I not say no enough? We blame ourselves. Maybe it was something we did or didn’t do that caused this.”
One indignity can lead to another. “In domestic violence, we hear survivors say all the time, I just got assaulted, and my batterer wants to make up through sex. The last thing I want to do is have a sexual relationship with this person who just violated me. But do I say no and make it worse? Sometimes I just do it to shut him up and let him leave me be, which, again, still doesn’t feel good.
“It’s still rape.”
Rep. Dean, sex is not just an act meant to satisfy the needs of one partner while violently ignoring the will of another. As Keiffer points out, the long-term hurt sticks with the abused. Helping them reclaim their lives takes care and empathy to help them rebuild from an unconscionable trauma.
You should talk to the good people in your community who work with women — and men — who have been raped by their spouses and justify it by pointing to a marriage license. Listen to their stories and see if your heart remains as hard as a stone.
Listen to the Jane Keiffers of the world, who aches for the victims her staff helps care for.
Then, announce that you were wrong.
Because you are.
Those victims will tell you so. You need to hear them.
Ray Marcano’s column appears on these pages each Sunday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.