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Questions a Spousal Rape Survivor May Have

Many people think that rape cases only involve strangers, but in reality, a high number of rape crimes occur between people who know each other – including two people in a romantic relationship or marriage.

Many people think that rape cases only involve strangers, but in reality, a high number of rape crimes occur between people who know each other – including two people in a romantic relationship or marriage. Rape is still a nonconsensual sexual act that can lead to both criminal charges and civil liability for the accused. If you are a spousal rape survivor, learn more about this crime with help from the California spousal rape law firm of Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.

Is It Rape if You Are in a Relationship?

Yes. If you did not give your consent to an unwanted sexual act, including vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, it is considered sexual assault or rape even if you are in a relationship and have had consensual sex together before. California’s definition of rape under Penal Code 261 PC is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another. 

It is also rape to have sex with someone who is prevented from resisting via intoxication or who is unconscious or asleep, if this was known or reasonably should have been known by the assailant. Even if you were in a consenting romantic or sexual relationship with a partner, or if you were married to the accused, a sexual act without your consent is a crime. 

How Common Is Spousal Rape?

Sexual violence unfortunately occurs often between two people who know each other, including two spouses. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, as many as 80 percent of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. About one-third, or 33 percent, are committed by a current or former spouse. This includes a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband. You are not alone as a victim of marital or spousal rape.

What Should I Do After Being Raped by My Spouse?

Do not suffer in silence. You have rights and legal options as a survivor of spousal rape. Call 911 immediately if it is an emergency or you are in fear for your safety. Get to a safe place away from your spouse. If you wish to file a protective order barring your spouse from coming near you or contacting you, contact the courthouse in your county to begin this legal process. An attorney can help.

Tell someone about what happened to get the help and support you need. Sexual violence by a spouse can be even more difficult to cope with than stranger sexual abuse, as you trusted and may have loved the person who raped you. It is important to get counseling for the mental and emotional effects of this crime. Next, go to a hospital or health care center for a physical examination. 

It is important to seek medical care after a rape, as you may have injuries that need tending. Obtaining a sexual assault forensic exam (sometimes referred to as a “rape kit”) can also be helpful if you wish to press criminal charges or pursue a rape lawsuit later. This free exam can collect evidence of sexual assault, such as photographs of injuries or markings on your body and DNA evidence from your spouse. You are permitted to bring someone with you for moral support during the exam, if desired.

How Long Do I Have to Get a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam?

Do not delay in obtaining a sexual assault forensic exam after being raped by your spouse. There is a time limit of 120 hours (five days) from the assault to receive this exam. After five days, the results of the exam may not be accurate, as evidence such as bodily fluids, saliva or marks may no longer be available. Go to a provider near you for the exam as soon as possible. Try your best not to take a shower or bathe before receiving the sexual assault forensic exam.

If I Go to the Hospital, Will They Report It to the Police?

If you wish to go to a medical center for care and a sexual assault forensic exam but do not yet know if you wish to tell the police about spousal rape, ask the hospital about its reporting policies before receiving care. Some have policies in place that require them to report incidents of sexual assault to the police, while others do not. However, the evidence kit created with your exam legally cannot be released to the police without your permission.

Should I File Charges Against My Spouse for Rape?

The answer to this question is up to you. This decision is entirely yours, based on what is best for you and your family. Know, however, that support and resources are available for individuals who wish to report their spouses or romantic partners for the crime of rape. You can seek assistance from the police, medical providers, therapists, counselors, a women’s shelter and/or a sexual abuse lawyer near you.

Start by reporting the crime to the police, either by dialing 911 or finding your city’s nonemergency police number to file a report. Realize, however, that once you call the police and report spousal rape, whether your spouse gets arrested and charged with rape may be out of your control. City prosecutors can decide to press charges if there is sufficient evidence to do so, even if you change your mind and withdraw your accusation. 

What Are the Legal Remedies Available to Me for Spousal Rape?

The fact that you were in a relationship with the person who raped you does not limit your right to file a lawsuit against the accused party. You can name your spouse or ex-spouse as a defendant in a civil lawsuit for rape in California. This type of claim seeks financial compensation from the accused for the losses or damages you suffered because of the sex crime. These may include:

  • Medical costs
  • Rehabilitation or therapies
  • Prescription medications
  • Relocation
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Out-of-pocket costs
  • Punitive damages, in some cases

In addition, you can cooperate with the police and press criminal charges for spousal rape under the California Penal Code. If convicted of spousal rape, the defendant could face months to years in jail or prison, along with restitution or reparations paid to you, fines, community service, probation, and other consequences. 

To learn more about your rights and legal options as a spousal rape survivor, contact Manly, Stewart & Finaldi for a free and confidential case consultation.

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

Learn more about Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.