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Ohio outlaws unwanted sexual advances by a spouse

Nadia Ramlagan
20 May 2024

Advocates say victims of rape by a spouse can now seek justice - under a new law closing a loophole that did not punish rape and sexual battery cases, when the victim is married to the alleged perpetrator.

House Bill 161, signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine, is a groundbreaking moment for Ohio - said Emily Gemar, director of public policy with the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

She said research shows spousal rape and other forms of partner sexual violence can have far-reaching consequences and cause long-lasting trauma and injury for survivors.

"We're hoping, that by - essentially," said Gemar, "opening up the doors now for people to be able to report the harm they've experienced and be taken seriously by law enforcement and prosecutors, that we can help stop some of this violence in its tracks."

Nationwide, an estimated one in ten women have been raped by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Gemar added that across the state, Ohio's rape crisis centers have served victims seeking help after sexual violence committed by a spouse.

"People may come in to report a sexual assault by a spouse, and also talk about other forms of domestic and sexual violence that are happening," said Gemar. "So we're seeing it happen. And these reports come through at centers throughout the state."

Research shows around 77 percent of marital rape cases go unreported, and victims are more likely to experience higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and physical violence.

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