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Marital Rape: A Student Assessment of Rape Laws and the Marital Exemption

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 7 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2001 Pages: 1234-1253
Mary K. Kirkwood; Dawn K. Cecil
Date Published
November 2001
20 pages
Based on a survey of a sample of undergraduate students (n=469) in a large mid-Atlantic university, this study examined opinions on marital rape and rape in other victim-offender relationships.
Data on several independent variables were collected to determine whether any of the characteristics of the respondents influenced their opinions about what constitutes rape. These independent variables were characteristics that were believed by the researchers to have an impact on a person's opinion about the crime of rape. These characteristics included age, sex, race, marital status, and political orientation. There were two main dependent variables in this assessment of opinions on marital rape. The first dependent variable was whether a certain scenario was considered by the respondent to constitute rape. Participants were asked to respond to several different scenarios and to answer "yes" to these scenarios if they viewed the act as rape and "no" if they did not consider that the act constituted rape. The second dependent variable was derived from questions on punishment for the crime of rape. Respondents were asked whether they believed that certain factors should be considered when punishing an offender convicted of rape. Study findings suggest that there are still people who believe it is acceptable to rape one's wife, with significant differences found by gender. When compared to other victim-offender relationships, rape in the marital relationship was considered to be the least serious; however, because this sample was not randomly selected and was drawn from only one university, the findings should not be considered generalizable to the general public. This type of survey should be administered to a broader population of respondents with greater diversity in age and educational attainment. 8 tables, 3 notes, and 18 references