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Minnesota finally motions to make marital rape illegal

by Shelby Toth - executive editor
Tue, Mar 5th 2019 09:00 pm
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justice in Minnesota The state is working on finally fixing the errors of prior Minnesota lawmakers. For years, Minnesota's House (above) has been working towards making marital rape fully illegal without exceptions, and now it is soon becoming a reality. Marital rape is an issue that plagues victims all around the world.

Minnesota lawmakers are on their way to changing archaic laws that currently, in some cases, allow spouses to rape their significant others and not be prosecuted for the crime.

According to CBS Minnesota, the State House voted unanimously, 130-0, to get rid of the marital rape exception that prevented people from being charged for criminal sexual conduct if they were to rape their domestic partner.

Rep. Zack Stephenson, the lead author of the bill, explained that the current law is responsible for at least seven guilty people getting out of a conviction each year.

“We like to think of so-called marital rape exceptions as an artifact of history, as a relic of a time when a woman was considered the property of her husband,” Stephenson said. “But the sad truth is that we still have a limited marital rape exception on the books today, here in Minnesota.”

The idea that marital rape isn’t possible stems back from 1736 England, where famous juror Sir Matthew Hale claimed that marriage was a form of permanent consent, according to TIME.

This attitude held until 1979, when the first conviction in the U.S. of a man accused of raping his wife occurred.

The circumstances of that instance, with the couple in the middle of a divorce and the husband breaking into her home, created a narrow window for more recognition of marital rape as a crime.

By 1983, 17 states had done away with their laws that allowed spousal rape. According to Daily Beast, North Carolina became the last state to make marital rape illegal in 1993.

Now, 40 years later, states are still cleaning up what remains of these laws. Daily Beast reported in 2015 that many states still had certain distinctions between marital rape and other rape that made it more difficult to prosecute. Most of those laws required marital rape to involve force or aggression in order for it to be considered a crime.

Until recently, Minnesota was content staying a state that would not fully criminalize marital rape. According to Star Tribune, a Minnesota woman named Jenny Teeson tried to go to the police previously, as she claimed her husband drugged and raped her and recorded it on video, all while her 4-year-old son slept nearby.

When she went, the police told her that nothing could be done because her husband claimed the voluntary relationship defense, meaning his sentence was a mere 30 days in jail for privacy invasion.

During the House meeting where the new bill to take down marital rape was passed, Rep. Stephenson made sure to point out Teeson in the audience and thank her for her bravery in sharing her story.

The fact that it is 2019 and we’re still just now passing laws against marital rape is disheartening. However, with the amount of negativity in the world today there is hope in the fact that people are working towards fixing the old legislature.

Considering that Minnesota's House voted unanimously to change the law, it's clear that a shift in cultural attitude has occured. But there is still more work to be done. Marital rape is the most underreported crime in America right now. For whatever reasons, many spouses don't feel comfortable contacting authorities when there is an evident problem.

Marital rape also comes with a certain amount of guilt, with partners either blaming themselves in some way for their own rape or by shrugging it off and trying to think of excuses for their significant other on why they would do that to them.

The fact that Minnesota is doing its part to push back against marital rape is a great step in making sure that the crime is wiped from America.

It’s a step that could have been made much sooner, but now that it’s happening, it can only hope to inspire other states to do the same.

If you or someone you know would like to reach out for help, rainn.org has live chat options or you can call RAINN’S 24/7 phone line.