I’d cried myself to sleep the night of our wedding, having been refused The next morning, I awoke to his hand on my left hip. “Take off all your clothes; I’m going to consummate this now.” Shocked, confused, and dismayed, I obeyed. I didn’t feel like I had a choice.
A few months later, after being refused time after time, he was getting ready for work, and I asked. He ignored me, so I asked again. Suddenly, he turned on me, grabbing me by the shoulders and roughly throwing me down on the bed. He yelled, ‘Is this what you wanted? Are you happy now?’ as he aggressively climbed on top of me.
The next 15 years vacillated between ignoring me, rejecting me, and demanding me. I knew, if I initiated, I’d be soundly refused. I stopped initiating, asking, or longing. I shut down that part of me and chose to focus on my children, home, and church. At the same time, I determined to be available whenever he required me; that’s what a good Christian wife does.
I began to dread weekends when I would wake up with his hand on my left hip, demanding that I take off all my clothes. I’d plead inside my head ‘no, please no, not today, please no,’ A shiver would run up my spine when I finally felt his breath on my neck. I’d lay there on my stomach for over an hour because he wasn’t finished until I was in pain.
Some mornings I’d try to get out of bed before he did, but then I’d get into trouble. I’d use the bathroom before him, or he’d get mad because valuing the children more than I did him. He was inescapable. Thankfully, near the end, he demanded my participation only about four times per year. He had other outlets, on the computer, that was more satisfying.
His other outlets caused a different kind of pain, a pain from rejection, and wondering why I wasn’t good enough. Betrayal hurts. It is confusing. It is heart-wrenching. I confronted him many times and was put off with ridiculous excuses and denials. “Someone broke into our computer and put it there” or “I was doing research” were just a few lies he expected me to believe. When I found and watched some of what he was viewing, it was so perverse and disgusting that it made me physically ill, and I ended up sick in bed for days afterward.
Was this marital rape or assault even though he never hit me or threaten me with a weapon?
Domestic Sexual Violence and Marital Rape
Domestic sexual violence or marital rape happens when a perpetrator commits a nonconsensual sex act against a victim’s will, and they are married (RAINN, 2000). Typically, marital rape is a domestic violence tactic used to maintain power and control over the married victim. The perpetrating spouse, usually the husband, may or may not use overt force to perpetuate the rape or assault. Much of the time, a victim has already learned that to resist is futile and dangerous through other forms of domestic abuse. They have experienced verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and physical abuse that has taught them safe ways to respond. In my case, it was safer to comply; then it was to resist.
It was not until 1993 that marital rape was considered a crime in every state in the USA (Finkelhor, Yllo, 1985). However, marital rape in 2020 is still treated very differently in the judicial system than non-marital rape. Only 17 states have passed laws that treat married and unmarried rape the same way in the courts (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2003). The rest of the states provide a married victim, less time to report the rape, a higher requirement to prove danger or lethality, and the perpetrator with less severe penalties (Russell, 1990).
Is God Sexually Abusive?
Some Christians assert that there is no such thing as rape or sexual violence in marriage. The theology can be described briefly like this:
1 Corinthians 7 says that a husband and wife should fulfill their marital duty to each other and that their bodies no longer belong to them as individuals. Further, a woman must obey or submit to her husband and should not deny him unless that denial is consensual. Basically, consent in marriage is given when the “I do” is said during the marriage ceremony; after that, consent for sex is presumed and expected.
Some Christians assert that girls should get married as soon as menses begins. Even those who marry while an adult are often pressured to have as many children as possible and as quickly as possible. Some Christians are taught that any form of birth control is sin. Women are shamed for miscarriages, shamed for not wanting more children, and are most especially shamed for having abortions all in God’s name.
Domestic abuse and domestic sexual violence are not God’s plan for any woman. Biblically, God hates violence (Psalm 11, Proverbs 3 & 10). He hates violence against women explicitly and uses the term “outrage” (nebalah) 13 times in the old testament when extreme acts of violence are perpetrated, including the rapes of Dinah, Tamar, and the women of Bethlehem (SAFER, n.d).
To assert that marital rape does not exist is the same as saying that God condones any sexual demand in marriage regardless of power, control, abuse, desire, or consent. Denying marital sexual abuse prevents the victim from being believed, getting help, or feel validated that she has been violated. It also prevents the perpetrator from seeking help or redemption.
Denying marital sexual violence cheapens consensual marital sex, denigrating it to the lowest common denominator of animalistic instinct. This belief system does not recognize the validity of consensual, sexual mutuality. It makes the act of sex, and attitudes of entitlement, abuse, and control, more important than the individuals who are part of a marriage.
Denying marital rape is a lie because it defines rape and assault as sex or marital intercourse, instead of a violation and a crime. Mutual sexual consent is demonstrated in the Song of Solomon, where both parties experience mutuality and equality. Furthermore, Paul instructs husbands to “love their wives as Christ loves the church,” (Eph. 5:25) which automatically prohibits abuse of any kind, including rape and sexual assault within marriage. When women are commanded to ‘submit to their husbands as to unto the Lord’, they are not being told to live in fear and danger. They are also not being told that they are inferior, unequal, or the lesser person in the marriage. The theme of the Bible, especially the new testament, is equality, mutuality, and love.
God is not abusive. He is not sexually abusive and does not condone sexual abuse, marital rape, or assault. His desire and instruction are for all people, especially married people, is to love one another and treat each other with mutuality, deference, and respect; Anything less is sin.
Finkelhor, David; Yllo, Kersti (1985). License to Rape: Sexual Abuse of Wives. New York, NY: The Free Press. p. 172.
National Criminal Justice Reference Service. (2003). Marital Rape: History, Research, and Practice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=201457
Russell, D. (1990). Rape in Marriage. Macmillan Publishing Company, USA,
SAFER. (n.d.). The Bible on Violence Against Women. Retrieved from https://www.saferresource.org.au/the_bible_on_domestic_family_violence