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Friday, May 10, 2013

Why Marital Rape Actually Is a Crime

Posted by on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Last week, the governor signed a bill bringing Washington State's rape laws into the 21st century by finally eliminating the "marital exemption" to our third-degree rape and indecent liberties laws. The law used to say that these crimes had been committed unless the victim was married to their rapist, in which case what had been a crime was magically rendered not a crime. Which is clearly fucked.

Nevertheless, some people—Slog commenters, state Senator Elizabeth Scott (Rrrrr-Monroe)—were confused.

Senator Scott, who was the sole NO vote on this bill (as she likes to brag, she's a BA-holding linguist), defended her vote by saying, "This bill requires absolutely no proof that rape occurred—because there couldn't be any." Scott sent that in an e-mail to a constituent. WRONG. Totally wrong. This bill, in fact, only strikes language saying that if what occurred is legally defined as third-degree rape, then it doesn't matter whether your husband raped you or a stranger did, it's still a crime. Whether or not she believes in the existence of third-degree rape isn't actually relevant here.

"As a linguist, I hate it when words are twisted beyond recognition. Rape used to mean rape," she continued.

First: HAHAHA, WTF.

Second: "Rape" still means "rape," whatever your bullshit linguistic red herring argument is supposed to mean. "Consent" is about communication, and we're not the Borg and we're not telepathic; we have communication breakdowns. Sometimes a rape doesn't look like a made-for-TV movie with a brutal stranger accosting you in a park. Sometimes your rapist is your friend. Sometimes you've had sex before. Sometimes you feel like it's your fault. But that's why there are laws. There's a legal definition of crimes, and there are lawyers and judges and juries involved in deciding whether or not a sexual encounter is against the law.

But, since people were asking, what exactly is third-degree rape?

I took my question to David Martin, a King County prosecutor who heads the domestic violence unit. Third-degree rape is "everything short of using force," he explained. "If someone says 'no,' and you do it anyway, should that be a crime? What legislatures all over the United States have said is 'no' means 'no.'"

People talk about fighting off an attacker—but is that the only way to deny consent?

"Should a victim have to fight? Do they have to use violence?" he asks rhetorically. "Or do they get to say, 'I get to do with my body what I feel is appropriate'? If you tell someone, 'You can’t come in my home, I have property rights,' if they do, they’re committing trespassing." You don't have to physically fight them for that to be a crime. Why should that be different when it comes to your body?

"You can’t invade another person’s body sexually without their permission," says Martin. That's what the law says.

On marital rape, he tells me, "For a long time, these laws were on the books because women were looked at as chattel, as property. It was a form of rape that was seen as legitimate." In the domestic violence unit, while he admits there's there’s "a huge problem with reporting" and there are definitely "barriers to the ability to prosecute," they're also "among the most important cases that my office does." Raping one's partner as part of a pattern of abuse, says Martin, has "taken violence and compounded it with something equally if not more horrible—that is, sexual violence."

If you're still unclear on this whole rape thing, Martin gave me published examples of third-degree rapes, from the appeals court. Here you go:

State v. Higgins:

Mr. Higgins again tried to wake N.N. and began tugging on her shorts. Mr. Higgins asked N.N., “ ‘Do you want to?’ ” or “ ‘Can we?’ ” and she replied, “ ‘No.’ ” Report of Proceedings (RP) (Nov. 12, 2010) at 81. N.N. went back to sleep. Mr. Higgins eventually moved on top of N.N. and she thought he was trying to leave the tent to go to the bathroom. She scooted under him to allow him access to the tent door. Mr. Higgins then pulled N.N.'s shorts and underwear down. She said, “ ‘Stop. You're drunk.’ ” Id. at 82. He responded, “ ‘oh, well, you're drunk too.’ ” Id. She repeated “stop” five or six times and started crying. Id. at 83. She struggled to get out from under his body weight. Mr. Higgins pulled his own pants down, pinned N.N.'s arms and had sexual intercourse with her.

State v. Ramos:

According to Monterrosa, Ramos asked her if they could talk because he was experiencing a lot of problems and felt lonely. Monterrosa was nervous, but reluctantly agreed. They walked to Ramos's girlfriend's truck in the parking lot. After Monterrosa sat down on the edge of the back seat, Ramos told her that he would not let her out of the car and ordered her to get further inside. He pushed Monterrosa and climbed into the truck. He got on top of her and started to pull down her pants. Despite Monterrosa's repeated protests, Ramos pulled her pants down to her knees and had intercourse with her. Monterrosa said “No” many times, but did not scream or hit Ramos. Afterwards, Ramos instructed Monterrosa not to tell anyone, or he would continue to grab her whenever he saw her.

 

Comments (24) RSS

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1
The Slog also had the story yesterday of the Air Force telling women in service that sometimes fighting back is the wrong choice (ie you may be threatened with bodily injury) and that women should NOT fight back.

So yes, you get to say NO and it means "I don't want to have sex with you." If it continues, that's rape.
Posted by westello on May 10, 2013 at 4:00 PM · Report this
2
I know this is a minor point, but getting a B.A. doesn't make you a linguist, any more than being an undergraduate physics major makes you a physicist. This attempt to round herself up is pathetic. And then insinuating that what linguists care about is fixed definitions of particular words, which just goes to show how little she learned in her linguistics classes in college.
Posted by Margaret L. on May 10, 2013 at 4:35 PM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 3
Rather than "no means no," I prefer the alternative I heard on Talk of the Nation/On Point/some NPR talk show: "yes means yes." As in, you have permission to fuck the person only if the person says YES. Anything other than YES is NO.
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on May 10, 2013 at 5:10 PM · Report this
5
@3: So if people have sex without discussing it they have just raped each other? That seems pretty silly.
Posted by Joe in Seattle on May 10, 2013 at 6:23 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 6
A new low for Unbrainwashed, as he decides that men who make an effort to not be rapists aren't real men.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings http://www.reddit.com/r/spaceclop on May 10, 2013 at 6:29 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 7
@5- More like "If you have even the tiniest bit of doubt that there isn't clear consent, you ought to ask."

Some people like to play games, some people don't know what the games are. Unless these people speak clearly to each other, people get hurt.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings http://www.reddit.com/r/spaceclop on May 10, 2013 at 6:31 PM · Report this
8
No Means No is an awesome band. Also, in the context of consent, indisputable.
Posted by lifner77 on May 10, 2013 at 7:04 PM · Report this
9
It's time to just call these people what they are: rape advocates.
Posted by BD on May 10, 2013 at 7:43 PM · Report this
10
These examples sound to me like second-degree rape, which leads me to wonder if third-degree rape is what second-degree rapists get when they plea bargain?
Posted by Erica Tarrant on May 10, 2013 at 8:05 PM · Report this
DickDave 11
@4: Just fuck you. Fucking troll.
Posted by DickDave on May 10, 2013 at 8:05 PM · Report this
12
*graps @4's head and starts scouring it with Comet and steelwool.*
Posted by Machiavelli was framed on May 10, 2013 at 8:07 PM · Report this
13
Used to be grounds for divorce if one spouse withheld connubial rights from the other.

Now you can probably get 3 days in jail for solicitation just for asking the wife if she's gonna be tired tonight.

End result is the death of marriage.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 10, 2013 at 9:11 PM · Report this
14
@13 your marriage deserved to die.
Posted by Machiavelli was framed on May 10, 2013 at 10:13 PM · Report this
JonnoN 15
where do I cast my vote in the ban @4 poll? (and if @13 disappeared too I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep)
Posted by JonnoN http://www.backnine.org/ on May 10, 2013 at 10:42 PM · Report this
fletc3her 16
I think it would be interesting to know how often this charge is actually used. None of the stats I can find break down charges or convictions with sufficient detail.
Posted by fletc3her on May 11, 2013 at 12:00 AM · Report this
17
@13: So, um, rape-lite?
It's not much of a marriage if you have to sexually assault her to get laid. More like a hostage situation.
Posted by lifner77 on May 11, 2013 at 12:37 AM · Report this
18
@14 Oh silly. Like any woman (or man) would go near him.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on May 11, 2013 at 3:22 AM · Report this
20
14,15, 17,18,19

One insightful comment and the SLOGoteriat has a grand mal seizure on stage.

Just another day for SupeROTU !
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 11, 2013 at 7:25 AM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 21
responding to trolls = yummy delicious troll food. Just sayin.
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on May 11, 2013 at 8:42 AM · Report this
venomlash 22
@20: I'll believe it when I see you actually post something insightful.
Posted by venomlash on May 11, 2013 at 11:38 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 23
@4 Let me guess: you were a Phi-Delt as a frat boy.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on May 11, 2013 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 24
Call me crazy, but didn't both of those examples involve force?

I'm still confused.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on May 11, 2013 at 8:39 PM · Report this
26
@10, @24: +1

As you have been polite about it, I'll spell it out: 3rd deg rape is a figment of imagination, and leaves way too much room for misuse. Obviously any act upon another without consent requires either harm or threat of harm. Sexual assault is assault, period. Of course "no" is not always "no", as documented in much of all our contemporary literature and art forms depicting sexuality, if not in people's experiences and observations. It's a fallacy; verbal communication is not that precise: tone, context, body language and cultural differences all play a part in it. There is no need to create a separate class of assault because sex is involved; this only opens the opportunity for people to exploit. No need to legislate sexual conduct beyond that of use or threat of harm (violent or material).

Needless to say, sex with minors is a separate issue altogether, of course.
Posted by JustSayinIt on May 12, 2013 at 10:46 PM · Report this
27
@10, @24: +1

As you have been polite about it, I'll spell it out: 3rd deg rape is a figment of imagination, and leaves way too much room for misuse. Obviously any act upon another without consent requires either harm or threat of harm. Sexual assault is assault, period. Of course "no" is not always "no", as documented in much of all our contemporary literature and art forms depicting sexuality, if not in people's experiences and observations. It's a fallacy; verbal communication is not that precise: tone, context, body language and cultural differences all play a part in it. There is no need to create a separate class of assault because sex is involved; this only opens the opportunity for people to exploit. No need to legislate sexual conduct beyond that of use or threat of harm (violent or material).

Needless to say, sex with minors is a separate issue altogether, of course.
Posted by JustSayinIt on May 12, 2013 at 10:50 PM · Report this

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