It may be a common misconception that if a couple is married, anything goes in the bedroom. This old-world belief may stem from a time when women were considered the legal property of their husbands (as they still are in some countries.) However, in 21st century Nevada, spouses have equal rights, including the right to decline sex.
NRS 200.3731 explains that victims of sexual assault who are married to their perpetrator have the same rights as victims of sexual assault who are not married to their perpetrator – assuming the assault was committed by force or by the threat of force. What does this mean? Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain.
The Topic of Consent and Marriage
With unmarried people, the crime of ‘rape’ is when any person has unwanted sex with another person, regardless of whether or not force was used, as long as the perpetrator knows that the victim did not want to have sex (or was too incapacitated to make a clear decision, i.e., drunk/drugged.)
This is different with a married couple. Legally, a person can have sex with their spouse without their spouse’s consent, as long as there was no force or threat of force used. To help clarify, let’s look at an example:
A husband rolls over in bed at night and starts touching his wife. The wife says, “I don’t want to have sex with you,” but then she submits, begrudgingly, or even while continuing to say, “I don’t want this.” This would likely not be considered spousal rape.
On the other hand, if the same man rolls over in bed and starts touching his wife, and she says, “I don’t want to have sex with you,” to which the husband responds, “You’ll do what I tell you to, or I’ll hit you,” and then he holds her in place while he begins a sexual act, that is likely a case of spousal rape.
What if We’re in the Process of Getting a Divorce?
There’s another essential piece of information about spousal rape in Nevada. It is not necessary that a spouse immediately reports the crime. Even if the people are in the process of divorcing, or are separated, if they are still legally married when the crime is committed, it can be considered spousal rape.
Penalties for Spousal Rape
If a person is convicted of spousal rape in Nevada, they are punished the same way a regular person (non-spousal rape perpetrator) would be punished. In Nevada, rape is a Category A Felony, which is the most serious classification of crime.
Suppose the spousal rape resulted in the victim sustaining substantial bodily harm. In that case, the sentence could include life in prison without the possibility of parole or life with the possibility of parole after 15 years.
If the spousal rape did not cause the victim substantial bodily harm, the sentence could include life in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years.
In any case, of sexual assault/rape, the perpetrator is required to register as a sex offender in Nevada for their entire life. Also, a rape crime carries a supervision penalty that can last anywhere from 10 years to life.
Clearly, this is a very serious crime that carries with it very grave consequences.
Physical and Psychological Effects of Spousal Rape
According to an article in Psychology Today 2, research shows that about 10-14% of married women in the United States have been raped by their husbands. Just because the perpetrator was a spouse does not mean that the victims’ consequences were not severe. Many spousal rape victims suffer long-term physical and mental health issues as a result of the crime committed against them.
Physical injuries to the vaginal and anal areas are a common side-effect of spousal rape, as are:
- Vaginal tearing
- Anal tearing
- Urinary tract infections
- Bladder infections
- Pelvic pain
- Sexually transmitted diseases
In addition to these injuries, there may be other injuries involved when force was used against the spouse. Many victims are kicked, burned, hit, punched, strangled, or stabbed – and they survive the crime with torn muscles, lacerations, soreness, bruising, and even broken bones.
More complexly is the issue of unwanted pregnancies after a spousal rape. According to the same article about 17% of spousal rape survivors experienced an unwanted pregnancy.
The emotional effects of being raped by one’s spouse are severe. Not only was a rape committed, but it was committed by someone that the spouse loved and trusted, so they often experience a combination of shock, depression, PTSD, anxiety, sleep disorders, and suicidal ideation.
A shocking statistic3 uncovered was that women who were raped by their intimate partners were more likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety than those who were raped by non-partners.
Common Defenses or Plea Bargains
If a plea bargain is not taken, your attorney will demand that sufficient proof of force/threat of force was present in the crime, seeing how, without that threat, there was no crime.
A common defense is if there was no actual sex had during the incident, which means the person cannot be charged with spousal rape.
And, of course, false accusation is another common defense. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that wives or husbands accuse their partners of crimes they did not commit, and your attorney will investigate that possible defense thoroughly to see if it’s an avenue by which your case can be dropped or won.
Experienced Legal Representation
With the help of an experienced attorney, and depending on the circumstances of your specific case, it may be possible to have a spousal rape case reduced to a battery or domestic violence charge, which carries with it a much lesser sentence than sexual assault. To learn more, contact our team of Las Vegas attorneys for a free and confidential consultation.
2Stanley, Maclen. (15 May 2020). The Bizarre Legal Loopholes Surrounding Spousal Rape. Psychology Today. Retrieved 20 September 2021 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/making-sense-chaos/202005/the-bizarre-legal-loopholes-surrounding-spousal-rape
3Plichta SB, Falik M. (May-Jun 2001). Prevalence of violence and its implications for women’s health. Womens Health Issues. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 20 September 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11336864/