Raped by person known

Partner rape is an extremely prevalent form of sexual violence and can be particularly devastating

Throughout the history of most societies, it has been acceptable for men to force their wives to have sex against their will, indeed the traditional definition of rape was, ‘sexual intercourse with a female not his wife without her consent’.

This rationale remained largely unchallenged until the 1970s when the women's movement argued for the elimination of the spousal exemption because it failed to provide equal protection from rape to all women.

However, it was not until 1991 that rape within marriage was recognised in law in England and Wales, although this recognition has not been accompanied by prosecutions, still less by convictions.

The British Crime Survey found that 54% of rapes were committed by a current or former partner and research published by the Home Office last summer revealed that few of these are reported to the police – in this study of 676 rapes reported to eight police forces, just over 20% were committed by a current or former partner.

Partner rape is an extremely prevalent form of sexual violence, particularly when we consider that the one in four women who will be involved in physically abusive relationships are especially vulnerable to rape from their partners. Studies show that between a third and half of women experiencing physical abuse are also raped by their partners at least once.

This is experienced in various ways; some are physically abused during the sexual violence whilst others are raped following a physically violent episode where the husband wants to ‘make up’. Other women experience sadistic or obsessive rape; these assaults involve torture and/or ‘perverse’ sexual acts and are often very physically violent and involve pornography.

For many women who are physically abused and raped, the sexual violence is particularly devastating and traumatic – on top of everything else with which all rape victims contend, there is the additional devastation of betrayal by someone once loved.

Women who are raped by their husbands are likely to be raped many times - often 20 times or more. Survivors of partner rape not only experience a higher number of assaults, but research indicates that they are more likely than women raped by acquaintances to experience oral and anal rape. Husbands often rape their wives when they are asleep, or use coercion, verbal threats, physical violence, or weapons to force their wives to have sex. Importantly, some researchers have found that compared to men who ‘only’ physically abuse, men who physically abuse and rape are particularly dangerous individuals and are more likely to severely injure their female partners and potentially escalate the violence to murder.

Most researchers of partner rape agree that rape in marriage is an act of violence - an abuse of power by which a husband or co-habitee attempts to establish dominance and control over his partner. While the research thus far reveals no composite picture of a partner-rapist, these men are often portrayed as jealous, domineering individuals who feel a sense of entitlement to have sex with their ‘property.’

Women appear to be particularly at risk for being raped by their partners under some circumstances which include being pregnant, being ill or recently discharged from hospital. Women are at a particularly high risk of experiencing physical and sexual violence when they attempt to leave their abusers since this represents a challenge to the abusers' control. One study found that two thirds of the women in their sample were sexually assaulted at the end of the relationship.

Despite the historical myth that rape by one's partner is a relatively insignificant event, causing little trauma, research shows that partner rape often has severe and long-lasting consequences for women. Indeed, rape by a partner is more likely to result in physical injury than rape by a stranger. The physical effects of partner rape may include injuries to the vaginal and anal areas, lacerations, soreness, bruising, torn muscles, fatigue and vomiting.

Women who have been physically abused and raped by their husbands may suffer other physical consequences including broken bones, black eyes, bloody noses, and knife wounds that occur during the sexual violence. Campbell and Alford (1989) report that one half of the partner rape survivors in their sample were kicked, hit or burned during sex. Specific gynaecological consequences of partner rape include vaginal stretching, miscarriages, stillbirths, bladder infections, infertility and the potential contraction of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV infection.

Given that women who are raped by their partners are likely to experience multiple assaults, completed sexual attacks, and rape by someone that they once presumably loved and trusted, it is not surprising that partner rape survivors seem to suffer severe and long-term psychological. Similar to other survivors of sexual violence, some of the short-term effects of partner rape include anxiety, shock, intense fear, depression, suicidal ideation, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Compared to women raped by strangers and those whom they don't know well, partner rape survivors report even higher rates of anger and depression. Long term effects often include disordered eating, sleep problems, depression, problems establishing trusting relationships, and increased negative feelings about themselves. Research has also indicated that the psychological effects are likely to be long lasting. Some partner rape survivors report flash-backs, sexual dysfunction, and emotional pain for years after the violence.

Survivors of partner rape are less likely than other survivors of violence to report their assaults to formal service providers, friends, or family members. Reporting rape in marriage may become even more complicated because of a woman's relationship to her assailant. Women raped by their husbands may hesitate to report because of family loyalty, fear of their abuser's retribution, inability to leave the relationship, or they may not know that rape in marriage is against the law or even ‘name’ their experience as rape.

Many women (and men) believe that only stranger rape is ‘real rape;’ and other women see sex in marriage as an obligation and define forced sex as a ‘wifely duty,’ not rape. Obviously, if women do not ‘name’ their experiences as rape, they are unlikely to seek outside assistance to stop the violence.

Last month the UK Government launched its Serious Violence Action Plan with welcome news of expansion of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs). Unfortunately, as with its efforts to reduce domestic violence, the strategy is overly focused on the criminal justice system (CJS).

Whilst this is critical to address the pitifully low rates of conviction for rape and domestic violence, the CJS involves only a fraction of the women who experience violence. As argued in a new paper by the End Violence Against Women campaign, we need both Rape Crisis Centres and SARCs if we are to provide the support that raped and sexually assaulted women need and deserve.

Until we eliminate the sense of entitlement which some men have to women’s sexual services, women will continue to be pressured, threatened and violated both by individual men and the systems which are supposed to protect them and offer justice.

Davina James-Hanman is director of the Greater London Domestic Violence Project

Ralph Steadman for the New Statesman.
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Tim Farron: Theresa May is "the prisoner of the Ukip wing of her party"

The Liberal Democrat leader on his faith, Blairism and his plan to replace Labour as the opposition. 

This is Tim Farron’s seventh general election. His first was in 1992, when his Tory opponent was a 36-year-old called Ther­esa May. He was just 21 and they were both unsuccessful candidates in the Labour fortress of North-West Durham. He recalls talking “to a bunch of ex-miners who weren’t best pleased to see either of us, some kid Liberal and some Tory”. Now he sees his former and current opponent as “the prisoner of the Ukip wing of her party . . . I think it has rendered Ukip almost pointless – she is Ukip now.”

May was elected to parliament in 1997, but it took Farron until 2005 to join her. She leads the dominant Conservatives while he heads a party of only nine Liberal Democrat MPs. Still, their reversal of fortunes gives him hope. “After the 1992 election, every­one said there’s no way for a non-Tory government, and it turned out there was. So let’s not assume it’s a given there’s a Tory government [for ever].”

In April, I accompanied Farron to Manchester Gorton, in the lead-up to a by-election that was cancelled by May’s decision to call a snap election on 8 June. Still, the 46-year-old’s party has been in campaign mode for months; Lib Dems spoke of using last December’s Richmond Park by-election to test their messaging. It clearly had an effect: the incumbent Conservative, Zac Goldsmith, lost to their candidate, Sarah Olney.

Brexit, to which the Liberal Democrats are vehemently opposed, will be a dominant theme of the election. Their party membership has just exceeded 100,000, close to an all-time high, and they have enjoyed much success in council by-elections, with more to come in the local elections of 4 May.

However, any feel-good factor swiftly evaporated when Farron appeared on Channel 4 News on 18 April. He was asked by the co-presenter Cathy Newman whether or not he believes that homosexuality is a sin, a question that he answered obliquely in 2015 by saying that Christianity started with acknowledging that “we’re all sinners”.

This time, he told Newman, he was “not in the position to make theological announcements over the next six weeks . . . as a Liberal, I’m passionate about equality”.

The Channel 4 interview divided opinion. One Liberal politician told me that Farron’s stance was “completely intolerable”. Stephen Pollard, the influential editor of the Jewish Chronicle, described it as
“a very liberal position: he holds certain personal views but does not wish to legislate around them”. Jennie Rigg, the acting chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, said it was “as plain as the nose on my face that Tim Farron is no homophobe”.

Farron declined the chance to clarify his views with us in a follow-up phone call, but told the BBC on 25 April: “I don’t believe that gay sex is a sin,” adding, “On reflection, it makes sense to actually answer this direct question since it’s become an issue.”

For his critics, Farron’s faith and politics are intertwined. He sees it differently, as he told Christian Today in 2015: “. . . the danger is sometimes that as a Christian in politics you think your job is to impose your morality on other people. It absolutely isn’t.”

Tim Farron joined the then Liberal Party at the age of 16 but didn’t become a Christian until he was 18. Between completing his A-levels in Lancashire and going to Newcastle University to read politics, he read the apologetics, a body of Christian writing that provides reasoned arguments for the gospel story. “I came to the conclusion that it was true,” he told me. “It wasn’t just a feel-good story.”

In speeches, Farron now takes on the mannerisms of a preacher, but he had a largely non-religious upbringing in Preston, Lancashire. “I don’t think I’d been to church once other than Christmas or the odd wedding,” he says. “I went once with my dad when I was 11, for all the good that did me.”

When we meet, it is Theresa May’s religion that is in the spotlight. She has condemned the National Trust for scrubbing the word “Easter” from its Easter egg hunt, a row it later emerged had been largely invented by the right-wing press in response to a press release from a religious-themed chocolate company.

“It’s worth observing there’s no mention of chocolate or bunny rabbits in the Bible,” Farron reminds me. “When people get cross about, in inverted commas, ‘us losing our Christian heritage’ they mean things which are safe and comfortable and nostalgic.” He pauses. “But the Christian message at Easter is shocking, actually, and very radical.”

British politics is tolerant of atheists (such as Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg) alongside those who, like David Cameron, are culturally Christian but whose faith is “a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes”. But the reaction to Farron’s equivocation on homosexuality prompted many to wonder if a politician who talks openly about his faith is now seen as alarming. Nebulous wishes of peace and love at Christmas, yes; sincere discussions of the literal truth of the Resurrection? Hmm.

Tim Farron’s beliefs matter because he has a mission: to replace not only Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition but Theresa May in Downing Street. Over lassis at the MyLahore curry house in Manchester, he tells me that Britain is facing two calamities. “One is Brexit, indeed hard Brexit . . . and the other is a Tory government for 25 years. We have to present a genuine, progressive alternative that can not only replace Labour as an opposition, it can replace the Tories as a government.” This is ambitious talk for a party with nine MPs. “I understand the ridicule that will be thrown at me for saying those things: but if you don’t want to run the country, why are you in politics?” He pauses. “That’s a question I would ask most people leading the Labour Party at present.”

What does he think of May, his one-time opponent in North-West Durham? “She strikes me as being very professional, very straightforward, somebody who is very conservative in every sense of the word, in her thought processes, her politics, in her style.” He recalls her 2002 conference speech in which she warned Tory activists: “Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us: the nasty party.”

“In many ways, she was the trailblazer for Cameron in being a softer-focused Tory,” he says. “It now looks like she’s been trapped by the very people she was berating as the nasty party all those years ago. I like to think that isn’t really her. But that means she isn’t really in control of the Conservative Party.”

Voters, however, seem to disagree. In recent polls, support for the Conservatives has hovered between 40 and 50 per cent. Isn’t a progressive alliance the only way to stop her: Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru all working together to beat the Tories?

“Let’s be really blunt,” he says. “Had Jeremy Corbyn stood down for us in Richmond Park [where Labour stood Christian Wolmar], we would not have won. I could have written Zac Goldsmith’s leaflets for you: Corbyn-backed Liberal Democrats.

“I’m a pluralist,” he adds. “But any progressive alliance has got to be at least equal to the sum of its parts. At the moment, it would be less than the sum of its parts. The only way the Tories are losing their majority is us gaining seats in Hazel Grove –” he ticks them off with his fingers, “– in Cheadle, in the West Country and west London. There’s no chance of us gaining those seats if we have a kind of arrangement with the current Labour Party in its current form.”

What about the SNP? “Most sensible people would look at that SNP manifesto and agree with 99 per cent of it,” Farron says. “But it’s that one thing: they want to wreck the country! How can you do a deal with people who want to wreck the country?”

There’s no other alternative, he says. Someone needs to step up and offer “something that can appeal to progressive younger voters, pro-Europeans and, you know, moderate-thinking Middle England”. He wants to champion a market economy, strong public services, action on climate change, internationalism and free trade.

That sounds like Blairism. “I’m a liberal, and I don’t think Blair was a liberal,” he replies. “But I admire Blair because he was somebody who was able to win elections . . . Iraq aside, my criticisms of Blair are what he didn’t do, rather than what he did do.”

Turning around the Tory tide – let alone with just nine MPs, and from third place – is one hell of a job. But Farron takes heart from the Liberal Party in Canada, where Justin Trudeau did just that. “I’m not Trudeau,” he concedes, “He was better-looking, and his dad was prime minister.”

There is a reason for his optimism. “I use the analogy of being in a maze,” he says, “You can’t see a way out of it, for a progressive party to form a majority against the Tories. But in every maze, there is a way out. We just haven’t found it yet.” 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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