The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is working to eliminate all forms of sexual violence and to advocate for the rights and needs of victims of sexual assault.

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Partner, Marital or Spousal Rape

If you are a survivor of sexual violence and need assistance please contact your local rape crisis center (in Pennsylvania) by calling 1-888-772-7227 or you can get more information about the programs in your area here.

In Pennsylvania, rape is rape, no matter what the relationship is between the victim and the perpetrator.

While the legal definition varies within the United States, marital rape can be defined as any unwanted intercourse or penetration (vaginal, anal, or oral) obtained by force, threat of force, or when the wife is unable to consent (Bergen, 1996; Pagelow, 1984; Russell, 1990).

Most studies of marital rape have included couples who are legally married, separated, divorced or cohabiting with the understanding that the dynamics of sexual violence in a long-term cohabiting relationship are similar to those of a married couple (Mahoney & Williams, 1998).

Research suggests that marital rape accounts for 25% of all rapes.

Bachman, Ronet, and Bruce M. Taylor. "The Measurement of Family Violence and Rape by the Redesigned National Crime Victimization Survey," Justice Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 3, September 1994.

An estimated 14% - 25% of women experienced forced sex at least once during their marriages.

Resnick, H., Kilpatrick, D., Walsh C., & Veronen, L., (1991) “Marital Rape” Case Studies in Family Violence, pp 329-353, as cited in Bergen, Raquel Kennedy. Wife Rape: Understanding the Response of Survivors and Service Providers, 1996, Sage Publications, Inc.

Research indicates that between 1/3 and 1/2 of battered women are raped by their partners and that sexual abuse is characteristic of the most violent relationships.

Bergen, Raquel Kennedy. Wife Rape: Understanding the Response of Survivors and Service Providers, 1996, Sage Publications, Inc.

It is a crime in all 50 states (and federal lands) for a husband to rape his wife. However, according to the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape, only 17 states and the District of Columbia have completely abolished the marital rape exemption (which precludes a husband from being charged with rape of his wife in certain situations, or limits the seriousness of the offense with which a husband could be charged).

Mahoney, Patricia, “The Wife Rape Fact Sheet”, (2000) National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College. http://www.musc.edu/vawprevention/research/wiferape.html


Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape * 125 N. Enola Dr. * Enola, PA 17025 * (717) 728-9740 * (800) 692-7445 * TTY (877) 585-1091

24-hour Information and Referral: 1-888-772-PCAR

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