How Spousal Sexual Assault is Classified

Sexual assault can happen in any relationship. Not only is sexual assault at the hands of a trusted spouse or intimate partner particularly difficult, the parameters of this type of assault can be particularly difficult to navigate. Although in history, marital rape was not always a crime, there are now specific classifications for convicting the perpetrators of spousal sexual violence.

The most basic definition of spousal sexual assault is any type of forced sexual act by a spouse, fiancé, or other intimate partner, or any assault committed by one of these people. Although the majority of reported cases of marital rape are reported by women, sexual assault by a spouse can happen to either gender by either gender. Below are certain specific parameters that are used to determine if spousal sexual assault has occurred.

Sex By Force

The act most commonly thought of as fitting within the classifications of marital rape is a person being forced to have sex with their partner. This can happen if the victim is being pushed, forced down, or in any way made to do anything that they have not consented to.


Emotional Blackmail

This classification occurs when the victim is made to feel like they have to have sex with their partner in order for them to love them or stay with them. The partner may manipulate them by saying that they are failing as a spouse or intimate partner if they do not agree to have sex with them. In addition any sexual act that happens under the threat of injury to the victim or the children falls under the category of marital rape.

Sex Under Fear of Harm

Any act that is submitted to in fear of harm to oneself or harm to others is considered assault. This includes situations in which the spouse is acting in an uncontrolled or forceful way that scares the victim into submission. If the victim is frightened, but the partner continues in their course of action, marital rape may have been committed.

Sex While the Partner is Incapacitated

Any situation in which the partner is unable to give their consent is a situation that can be considered assault. This includes sickness, intoxication, or unconsciousness. In these cases, a “yes” means nothing, as the “yes” cannot be given from a place of clear thinking.

Sex Under Conditions of Control

Marital rape can happen in situations where one of the partners in a sexual relationship withholds things from the spouse that should be mutual in order to manipulate them into having sex with them. In these cases, the spouse denies the victim their right to their family, friends, possessions, or money.

Any of the above situations can be classified as sexual assault by a spouse. It is important to remember that, even in marital or committed relationships, consent is important. Any time that either party in a committed relationship feels like they do not have a choice in whether the act occurs, or that their choice is ignored, sexual assault has occurred.