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The Facts About Marital Rape

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

I'm not sure what Michael Cohen charges per hour, but Donald Trump is surely overpaying him, at least for his opinion on criminal law. On Monday the special counsel for The Trump Organization responded to questions regarding Trump's alleged rape of his then-wife Ivana Trump, saying, "You cannot rape your spouse. And there's very clear case law."

Cohen couldn't be more wrong. Marital rape is illegal in every state. Although some state rape laws treat marital rape differently.

You Should Be Fired

Cohen's comments on the matter were unequivocal. He told the Daily Beast: "You're talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can't rape your spouse." (He also went on to threaten the writer with lawsuits if he published the story: "You write a story that has Mr. Trump's name in it, with the word 'rape,' and I'm going to mess your life up.")

And he may have been correct, if the year was 1975. Until then, spousal rape was not a crime as women were considered to have consented to all sex by consenting to marry. But in 1976 Nebraska repealed its marital rape exemption and others states followed suit, and by 1993 marital rape was a crime in every state. (The alleged Trump incident occurred in 1989, when most states, including Trump home state of New York, had criminalized spousal rape.)

State Marital Rape Laws

Even though raping your spouse is illegal in every state, that doesn't mean each state treats marital rape equally. Some states, like Ohio and Maryland, require higher proof of force to convict a spouse of rape than a stranger. Quite a few states exempt sexual assaults where a spouse is drugged or other rendered incapacitated, even if a substance was administered without the person's consent.

And in other states, like Virginia and South Carolina, the penalties for raping a spouse are more lenient than raping a stranger. However, the overall trend of rape legislation has been to consider spousal rape a crime, and to treat it as any other rape.

Marital rape is also a form of domestic violence and sexual assault. If you've been the victim of marital rape, you should contact the police immediately, and you can also seek help from domestic violence victim resources.

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