Marital Rape, Spousal Rape

Marital rape is rape. Definition of marital rape, spousal rape. Types of marital rape. Effects of spousal rape on victim.

Marital rape, also known as spousal rape or partner rape, is a type of rape that happens between two people who are married or in another type of intimate relationship. This type of rape is defined by the Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network as:

". . . sexual acts committed without a person's consent and/or against a person's will when the perpetrator is the individual's current partner (married or not), previous partner, or co-habitator."

Some marital rape victims don't realize they have been raped as they are under the mistaken impression that partners cannot rape each other. This is false, however, and sexual acts without consent – even among intimate partners – still constitute rape.

• Intimate partners account for 28% of rapists

Types of Marital Rape

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are three types of marital rape:1

  • Battering rape – battering rape occurs when physical and sexual violence occur together. Victims may experience the physical and sexual violence at the same time or one may occur after another. The rape may occur after physical violence as an attempt to "make up."
  • Force-only rape – this type of rape happens when physical violence is not present. As with all rape, this type of spousal rape is spurred by a desire to exert power and control over another person. This desire manifests in acting as if sex is an entitlement to one party from another.
  • Obsessive/Sadistic rape – obsessive or sadistic rape is rape that involves torture or perverse sexual acts. This type of marital rape tends to be very violent and result in physical injuries.

Emotional and Physical Reactions to Spousal Rape

Research shows that spousal rape victims are more likely to be raped multiple times. This, unfortunately, means that victims of marital rape may suffer the most long-term effects psychologically and sometimes physically. Spousal rape can also be difficult to prosecute and this puts additional stress on victims.

The physical effects of spousal rape are the same effects suffered by any rape victim including:

  • Injuries to the vaginal and anal areas
  • Scrapes, cuts
  • Bruises and soreness
  • Torn muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Broken bones
  • Injuries caused by weapons
  • Miscarriages or stillbirths
  • Contraction of sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV

Emotional reactions to marital rape can be very dramatic and severe as the sense of betrayal is profound after being raped by an intimate partner. Emotional reactions to spousal rape include:

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 17). Marital Rape, Spousal Rape, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Last Updated: January 2, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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