About Abuse

Marital / Partner Rape

Updated: 
June 19, 2009

Some people tell me that marital / partner rape is “not as bad” as being raped by a stranger. Is that true?

If you do not have visible physical injuries from the assault and/or rape, friends and family may think you are okay.  Many people do not understand the extent of trauma that is suffered by rape and sexual assault victims, even if the offender is a loved one.  As a victim of spousal or relationship sexual assault and/or rape, you will probably have to deal with additional effects and concerns from your experience that are different from the experience had by victims of stranger sexual assault and/or rape.* Some of these effects are:

  • Having to deal with ongoing contact with the abuser;
  • Being in love with/having romantic feelings for the abuser;
  • Further sexual assault and/or rape by the abuser as well as the possibility of different types of violence (for example, women being sexually assaulted and/or raped by their partners are also statistically more likely to be murdered by them).*

There are also further emotional effects that you may have to face based on the abuse you had to endure from your spouse. Because women who are raped by their partners are raped by someone they loved and trusted, they are more likely to:

  • Be diagnosed with depression or anxiety than those who are victims of abuse by someone other than a spouse or partner;
  • Have trouble forming trusting relationships;
  • Have a poor body image which may lead to an eating disorder;
  • Have more negative ideas about themselves and blame themselves for what happened.**

The fact that effects may be different than other types of sexual assault or rape does not mean that they are less serious. You have the same right to assistance as any other survivors of rape or sexual assault.

* Pandora’s Project
** National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women. Marital Rape: New Research and Directions