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Sexual Assault

The Truth about Rape and Relationships

When a woman has a close personal relationship with the man who rapes her, she (and others) may be confused about whether the attack was really a rape.

Oregon law, however, is clear on the subject of marital rape. Oregon has been a leader among the states in asserting that the marriage contract does not erase a wife's right to say no to her husband. A woman in this state who is raped by her husband has the same rights as any other victim of rape, and she can receive the same protection under the Family Abuse Prevention Act as a woman who is beaten by her husband.

Similarly, what some call "date rape" is in fact the crime of rape. The term "date rape'" should not be used, as it is never appropriate to define a crime in the context in which it sometimes happens. For example, you would never hear, "it was a walk-in-the-park mugging".

Sexual assaults and rapes are planned; they are not the results of unpredictable bursts of passion. The plan often is subtle and intricate, involving covert threats and manipulative actions. For example, earlier in the evening, the sexual offender might have demonstrated his strength in a playful wrestling match, or he may have shown her his gun collection or happened to mention violent acts he had committed in the past. The purpose is to plant the seeds of fear that will undermine her defenses when he attacks her.

Rapists will often rationalize, "It was a date, and she knew what to expect" (as if all dates are supposed to involve rape); or, "She shouldn't have drunk so much if she didn't want to do it" (since when is trusting someone an invitation to rape?); or, "She didn't fight or scream" (as if being immobilized by fear or shock should be construed as consent).

Women who have been raped by their husbands or acquaintances experience many of the same fears and feelings as the victim of any sexual assault. They suffer from guilt ("Was it something I said? Or did?"), from fear ("What if it happens again?"), and from loss of trust ("How could he do this to me?").

The victim needs to know that the attack was planned and nothing she did or did not do caused his sexually assaultive behavior. She needs to hear that he is a criminal and she is not an accessory to the crime but rather a victim. She needs to understand that her reactions during the assault--whether she chose nonresistance or screaming or some other tactic--were what she needed to do to survive. Only her instincts could tell her his potential for violence at that time, and she was correct to trust her instincts. Whether or not she chooses to prosecute, we encourage her to contact someone trained to work with sexual assault victims so that her healing process may begin as quickly as possible.

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