About Abuse

Marital / Partner Rape

June 19, 2009

Is it rape if my spouse or intimate partner forces me to have sex? How common is this?

Yes.  Any time someone forces himself/herself on you sexually without your consent, this can be sexual assault or rape.  Even if you’re married to or in a relationship with the person who is assaulting or raping you, this doesn't make it any less "real."* 

Sexual assault within a relationship is not uncommon.  Although statistics vary, one national study from 1997 found that 34% of women were victims of some type of sexual coercion (including rape and other acts) by a husband or intimate partner in their lifetime.**  Another national study from 2010 found that 9.4% of women have been raped by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and an estimated 16.9% of women and 8.0% of men have experienced sexual violence other than rape by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.***  Other studies reveal that women had unwanted sex with a current spouse or partner because they thought it was their "duty" (43%), after the partner begged and pleaded with them (26%), and after their partner said things to bully them (9%).**  Please know that you have the right to say “no,” even to your spouse or intimate partner, and you have the right to expect that s/he listen to you and not intimidate you or otherwise coerce you into consenting. 

Note: Although the specific legal definitions vary by state, generally most states recognize unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact to be sexual assault and forced sexual intercourse to be rape.  Sexual abuse is a common form of domestic violence and one that many victims are often ashamed or embarrassed to talk about.  For specific information on your state’s sexual assault and rape laws, contact your local rape crisis center, which can be found on RAINN's website. For support, you can reach out to one of the organizations listed on our National Organizations - Rape/Sexual Assault page.

* See Pandora’s Project

** Kathleen C. Basile, Prevalence of Wife Rape and Other Intimate Partner Sexual Coercion in a Nationally Representative Sample of Women, 17 Violence and Victims 511 (2002) -  abstract available here.

*** Center for Disease Control, National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey - Executive Summary (2010)