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Yes, there is such a thing as rape within marriage

Donald Trump has hit the headlines, yet again, for all the wrong reasons after his lawyer and campaign spokesperson claimed it isn’t possible to rape your spouse. The statement came after the Daily Beast ran a storythis week about how Ivana Trump once accused her former husband of “rape”, later saying not in the “criminal sense”.

Her statement was part of a deposition made during divorce proceedings and was revealed in a 1993 biography of Trump by author Harry Hurt III. Trump has always denied the accusations.

In response to the story, Michael Cohen, special counsel at the Trump Organization, 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

“It is true,” Cohen added. “You cannot rape your spouse. And … there’s very clear case law.”

Cohen’s denial is entirely inaccurate. Marital rape was made illegal in all US states by 1993. It was made illegal in New York State in 1984, five years before the alleged incident. Donald and Ivana Trump settled their divorce in 1992.

In 2012, George Galloway, then MP for Bradford West, commented on the rape allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which included an allegation of having sex with one woman while she was asleep. Speaking in an online video broadcast, Galloway said: “Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100% true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape. At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it”. He later added: “I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.”

Despite being a sitting MP at the time of his comments, Galloway was wrong about the law, with two separate courts already having ruled that the allegations would amount to rape.

In 2012, US Senate candidate and Missouri congressman Todd Akin gave an interview in which he said women rarely become pregnant after being raped, because: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”.

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Widespread misconceptions about rape and sexual violence aren’t just distasteful or unfortunate. They can have a very real impact on the lives of survivors. In 2012, the then head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Alison Saunders, warnedthat prolific rape myths risked making jurors prejudiced against victims. And areport released just last year found that a shocking 26% of all sexual offences (including rape) reported to police are not even recorded as crimes. The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report also revealed that a fifth of decisions on “no-crime” rape reports had been found to be incorrect.

Are we living in a society that simply doesn’t understand what rape is?

Posts from married women to the Everyday Sexism Project website certainly suggest that rape myths have profound consequences:

I’ve been forced to have sex by my husband who told me ‘come on, don’t make me rape you’ … I hope that someday these things will no longer be so commonplace.”

We are passing on the same myths and misunderstandings to younger people too, as their project entries clearly reveal:

Talking to my friend (guy) about Game of Thrones. I tell him how I am uncomfortable with all the rapes in the TV series.

‘What rape?’ he answers me.

Well, Drogo who rapes Dany multiple times.

‘Oh, that’s not rape, they’re married!’”

One woman, whose Everyday Sexism entry said she had suffered spousal abuse, wrote:

I was raised to be compliant, to adapt to others, to look to others for my own self-worth, to fear the judgment of others, to always put others’ needs ahead of my own. I was raised not to make waves, not to stand up for myself. I was raised to be afraid of the world … taught to worry how others see my apparel, my body, my behaviours … I sometimes wonder what I might have achieved, where I might be now, if I’d been raised in a world without all that.”

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