Inside One Woman’s Fight to Rewrite the Law on Marital Rape

Date: 
April 13, 2019

Legal Momentum Senior Vice President, Legal Director, and Director of the National Judicial Education Program (NJEP) Lynn Hecht Schafran, Esq. spoke with the New York Times about the history of marital rape statutes, and the unique traumas suffered by marital rape survivors. The Times piece also highlights Minnesota survivor Jenny Teeson's work to close legal loopholes around marital rape in her home state. Lynn's quote below:

The fight to criminalize marital rape stretches back decades

While the issue of marital rape came up as early as the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, it was eclipsed by the push for voting rights, said Lynn Hecht Schafran, the director of the National Judicial Education Program at Legal Momentum, a women’s legal defense organization.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that women’s rights activists started campaigning for states to criminalize marital rape, a difficult goal in male-dominated state legislatures. By 1993, they had succeeded in all 50 states, though the laws and legal precedents vary widely...

American statutes on marital rape were carried over from English laws, which drew on writings by the 17th-century jurist Matthew Hale on “contractual consent.” Ms. Schafran said they were tied to the notion that rape by an intimate partner was somehow less painful.

“In fact, the opposite is true,” she said. “The loss of trust is devastating.”

Read the full article.