Washington lawmakers have introduced legislation to remove the spousal exemption from rape in the third degree, in which no physical force is used but consent is not given. Washington removed the marital exemption for first- and second-degree rape in 1983, but the current law forced prosecutors to pursue lesser, misdemeanor assault charges against spouses in cases that would have otherwise been prosecuted as third-degree rape.
As the Associated Press reports, Washington state remains one of a handful of states where marriage is an absolute defense against allegations of third-degree rape.
In defending the bill, state Rep. Roger Goodman D-Kirkland borrowed a phrase from Todd Akin — and turned it on its head. “There is no such thing as legitimate rape,” he said.”We have to get rid of this marital rape exception and catch up with the rest of the country.”
The first marital rape conviction did not occur in the United States until the late 1970s, reflecting long-held beliefs that only rape committed by a stranger constituted “legitimate rape” and that forced sex within marriage was a wife’s duty. But with growing awareness and an evolving legal code, successful prosecution of marital and acquaintance rape is becoming more common.