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I understand that rape within marriage was not made illegal until 1991

(93 Posts)
ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Sun 04-Sep-16 20:12:07

I realise I'm probably going to sound stupid, but I just cannot get my head around this.

I know it wasn't made illegal until 1991 (I was born in 1991 which just makes it even more hmm to me) but surely a man just couldn't get away with raping a woman just because she was his wife before 1991?

So let's just say it's 1990 and a woman goes to the police because she has been raped and she wants to report it. However the man who raped her was her husband.

Would the police seriously not investigate or do anything just because it was her husband who raped her? Or would they not be able to do anything even if they wanted to because technically according to the law no crime had been committed?

I find it completely unbelievable that it wasn't a crime for so long.

thedaisymeadow Sun 04-Sep-16 20:13:59

It wasn't considered a crime because you were deemed to consent to sex through default of being married, if you follow me.

Marital rape is still an issue.

Room101isWhereIUsedToLive Sun 04-Sep-16 20:14:14

They wouldn't have been able to do anything about it, unless it was accompanied by physics violence I guess.

Room101isWhereIUsedToLive Sun 04-Sep-16 20:14:32


HermioneWeasley Sun 04-Sep-16 20:15:35

I remember the day it changed.

Yes, without accompanying battery/assault there simply was no such thing as rape in marriage - being married was permanent consent.

QuackDuckQuack Sun 04-Sep-16 20:16:49

I guess you could leave. Obviously that doesn't make it ok and there were probably many women who couldn't leave for various reasons.

I imagine it is still very difficult to get a conviction for rape within marriage, though that is true of rape in general.

regularbutpanickingabit Sun 04-Sep-16 20:18:25

It just didn't exist as a concept in law and, unfortunately, didn't exist as a concept to most people. Being married = doing what your husband wants, especially when that's sex. Refusing was just either not an option or something you didn't admit to.
Horrendous, when you think how many abusive people had license to rape.

venusinscorpio Sun 04-Sep-16 20:19:20

Yes, as other PP have said, it was "assumed consent". Even if you had separated, I believe.

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Sun 04-Sep-16 20:21:28

But at least now if your husband rapes you and you report it they will at least (or should) take it seriously and investigate even if there is no conviction.

Surely a woman wouldn't just be told to go away just because it was her husband who raped her?

It's just completely mind blowing.

NotAnotherHarlot Sun 04-Sep-16 20:22:19

It was indeed legal until 1991 in England and Wales.

First Scottish ruling finding it illegal was 1989

It is still legal in many countries. Beggars belief why people think women have equality.

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Sun 04-Sep-16 20:22:55

Then again, she probably would have been told to go away [sad[

AnyFucker Sun 04-Sep-16 20:23:14

yes, that is true

head fucking concept, innit

and although the law has changed, I still see posts every single day from women who think they owe their husband's sex

and feel guilty if they don't open their legs even if they don't want to

society takes a long time to catch up, it would seem

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Sun 04-Sep-16 20:23:36

That was meant to be sad

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Sun 04-Sep-16 20:24:56

I wonder how many women even bothered trying to report it then?

TheSparrowhawk Sun 04-Sep-16 20:32:16

Why would they have reported it? It wasn't a crime.

NotCitrus Sun 04-Sep-16 20:34:59

No-one would report it because it wasn't a crime, and we were just starting to get domestic violence taken seriously - the general attitude of police and most people was that it wouldn't be worth wasting police time on 'just a domestic'.

Attitudes to violence in general were more accepting then, too, though - corporal punishment still used in state schools until 1988, private until 1997, fights outside pubs were just ignored, football supporters beating the crap out if each other was fine unless it started to affect respectable people.

The legality of marital rape was one reason I never wanted to get married.

cexuwaleozbu Sun 04-Sep-16 20:40:01

So let's just say it's 1990 and a woman goes to the police because she has been raped and she wants to report it. However the man who raped her was her husband.

Then the police would either kindly or unkindly say that no crime had been committed. The act was not rape, it was called "claiming his conjugal rights". A married man had the right to have sex with his wife. He did not need consent as thus was deemed to have been given.

Gardencentregroupie Sun 04-Sep-16 20:41:27

Do you remember the trial of the Jordaches on Brookside? (Sorry if this is dumbing down the discussion). This was the mid 90s, and the defence to the woman killing her husband was provocation, after years of domestic violence, including rape. I remember one of the characters talking about it and saying, outraged, "he can't have raped her, he's her husband". So in the mid 90s, it was obviously an opinion that people felt free and able to express out on the street. It stuck in my mind even as a teenager because I was so shocked that people felt that way.

But yeah, before 1991 rape was as much a non-crime as not making your wife a cup of tea in the morning.

EnquiringMingeWantsToKnow Sun 04-Sep-16 20:41:37

Imagine if you went to the police today and said "I met this bloke and I asked him back to my place and he said would I like sex, and I said yes please that would be great and then he raped me and I'd like to press charges." The police would look at you funny. How can it be rape if you agreed to it?

Well marriage was like that. You agreed to have sex, permanently, like leasing a house to tenants, and if you wanted to stop agreeing you had to get divorced (or maybe a legal separation). It's absolutely horrific but that's how it was, because historic marriage laws had a strong undercurrent that the woman was the man's personal property, and this was the last legal holdout.

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Sun 04-Sep-16 20:43:06

Why would they have reported it?

I don't know really. Perhaps if they didn't know it wasn't a crime?

I was just trying to understand what the reaction of the police would be if someone did try and report it.

ToadsJustFellFromTheSky Sun 04-Sep-16 20:45:10

I told you I was going to sound stupid blush

I just find it mind blowing.

TheSparrowhawk Sun 04-Sep-16 20:46:54

The police would say 'who raped you?' and the woman would say 'my husband,' then the police would say 'sorry, that's not a crime.'

ImperialBlether Sun 04-Sep-16 20:49:23

This is why oral and anal sex is still illegal, so that no-one can say you consented to it. I think in later years if a woman was physically hurt in other ways eg a black eye, the police would prosecute for that and aim for the maximum sentence, but the rape wouldn't be a charge. Unbelievable, isn't it?

tribpot Sun 04-Sep-16 20:49:56

You don't sound stupid, it should be unbelievable that married women used to have to live like that (and had done for centuries). But the police could do nothing even if they were sympathetic.

BertieBotts Sun 04-Sep-16 20:51:48

My sister was born in 1991 and from what my mum has told me it wasn't really her decision.

She doesn't see that as rape. I find it quite staggering and really sad.

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