Ivana Trump's Alleged Rape Reveals the Many Remaining Myths About Marital Sexual Abuse

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

"You cannot rape your spouse," Michael Cohen, a special counsel at The Trump Organization, told the Daily Beast on Monday. 

Although the lawyer later apologized for this statement, he was responding to allegations that Republican front-runner Donald Trump had raped his ex-wife, Ivana Trump. She was granted a divorce based on her husband's "cruel and inhuman treatment" in 1990, which reportedly included a brutal rape, which was described by Harry Hurt III in his 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.

Cohen's statement is patently false, according to New York state law. A once-legal marital-rape exemption was struck down from New York law in 1984, the Daily Beast notes. Marital rape has been illegal in every state since 1993. Cohen may have sought to discredit Ivana Trump, but instead revealed a dangerous mistruth surrounding marital rape.  

Here are the biggest myths about marital rape that need to go.

Myth: Marital rape is legal.

Source: Mic/Pixabay

Fact: For years, the legal definition of rape upheld in the United States explicitly exempted marital rape. It wasn't until the mid-1970s that anti-rape activists demanded its elimination. 

Marital rape was officially made illegal in every state in the United States in 1993. But various states do still find ways around this law: As of April 2014, the Daily Beast reported in June, eight states uphold various rape exemptions.

Myth: Marriage implies consent.

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Fact: The rules of consent apply in marriage the same way they do everywhere else. No means no regardless of the nature of one's pre-existing relationship to another person.

Myth: Marital rape isn't that serious.

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Fact: Marital rape is as serious a crime as any other type of assault — both legally as well in terms of how it impacts those who experience it. Studies have shown that survivors of marital rape suffer similarly to those of other types of assault, and that these effects — including detrimental psychological effects as well as unique physical damage — may even be more severe than rapes committed by strangers.

Myth: Marital rape rarely happens.

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Fact: Nearly one third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a spouse or intimate partner at some point in their lives. 

Given this reality, it's somewhat unsurprising that marital rape is certainly prevalent: The two best-regarded studies on the topic have found that between 10% to 14% of ever-married or co-habitating women have been raped at least once by their partner. 

Myth: If it does happen, it's an isolated incident.

Source: Mic/Getty Images

Fact: More often than not, marital rape is not an exception, but exemplary of an overarching abusive relationship. Thirty-five percent of women who are survivors of spousal rape endured other forms of physical violence during the incident itself, and 69% of women who were raped by their spouse are raped more than once, according to the organization Health Research Funding. What's more, when domestic violence is already evident in relationship, the chances of spousal rape rise by 70%, according to the same organization.

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Julie Zeilinger

Julie Zeilinger is a staff writer at Mic as well as the founder and editor of The FBomb (thefbomb.org), a feminist blog partnered with the Women’s Media Center. She is also the author of "A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word" and "College 101: A Girl’s Guide to Freshman Year."

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