We often think of the street as a dangerous environment, a kind of place that sexual assault and rape most often take place...
But believe it or not, it's quite the opposite.
Rape is actually most common at the home, and sadly, a woman's husband is more commonly the perpetrator. This particular form of rape is called marital rape, and it often plays out as it does in the following example:
You're a woman who has just married a remarkable man, and a year into the marriage, he becomes the father to your newborn daughter. Life is great, until one night, you're unlacing your heels in the bedroom when your husband grasps you by your hair and yanks you onto the bed, pushing himself onto you.
You try to shove him off but the weight on your chest feels like a ton of bricks on a layer of sandpaper. Hours later, while you stare down at your bruised arms, he tells you he lost control, and it will never happen again. You believe him... until it does.
As the years pass by, it gets worse. You're being raped and beaten every day, you've lost the feeling of ownership to your own body, your family tells you to keep the marriage together, you've lost your friends. The only consolation you have is that this way you can protect your daughter, if at any time should his fury move from you to her.
But one cold, black night he gets really ruthless. Your husband forces intercourse multiple times. He beats you, your face is numb, your insides are torn, and your hope dwindles like the red spit dangling from our lower lip. At the soonest possible moment, you gather your daughter into your arms, and run like hell to the nearest police station. Your enraged husband trailing behind you, spattering insults. Your heart pounds as you thrust through the doors of the nearest police station, while your husband is seized by 2 officers. If you were living in a country where rape is criminalized, your husband would go to jail for what he has done to you.
If you were in one of the estimated 127 countries that do not criminalize rape within marriage, the story would unfold quite differently. In other countries, such as Singapore, you would be transferred to a hospital, inspected, and sent on your way. Your husband would face charges against the physical damage he has induced, but charges of rape would be disregarded.
This is because marital rape isn't a widely known term in Singapore, nor is it well-known in Norway, or several other countries where rape between a husband and wife isn't highly criminalized. Because of this, most records of marital rape go undocumented, or more commonly unspoken of.
What is even more disturbing, is that in lower-income countries, such as in various areas of Africa and India , the government would refuse involvement. A victim of marital rape would be handed back over to your husband, who would likely repeatedly beat and rape her for disobeying him. The following example is given from a woman in Kanjuu, in a quote taken by the Canadian publication, The Globe and Mail:
"He'll kick you out of the house, send you to the bush to spend the whole night outside with the kids. He'll burn your clothes, kill your chickens and eat them and sell your goats," said Ms. Wanjiku.
The primary reason this is allowed in these countries is that, upon marriage, a woman gives her identity to her spouse, and with this consent for him to do with her as he pleases. It is a matter of ownership. Many men in countries in which spousal rape is legal, believe they have a right to rape their wives if they deny them sex. The publication mentioned earlier goes onto explain this is legal terms:
"Seodi White, a lawyer from Malawi who joined the group when she was a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto, added that in Africa today, violence is often a part of the bargain: a man jamming a broken piece of furniture into his wife's vagina, another applying a python to her vagina because a witch doctor told him it would then spit out coins, still another cutting off her labia majora and selling it as a charm - all of it legal, because she is his property."
"In Africa, women are more likely to be raped than to learn to read," notes a source. This is not only damaging to women's rights internationally, but to so many victims themselves. And furthermore, marital rape is not just a vast issue in countries outside the U.S., but in the U.S. itself, the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics show: "In the U.S. alone, approximately 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriends."
There is a way to fight against the horrors of marital rape, and that is by encouraging victims to speak out, and if you suspect someone of being a victim of marital rape, let them know that you are there for them. This will give them a window of hope, to choose to slip out of it. We can also sign petitions to criminalize rape in countries where it is overlooked.
Every little effort we make can make a bigger difference in the lives of many future victims, and in some cases even prevent marital rape before it happens. This way women all over the world can live not in fear, but instead in a tranquil state of security.