It is common for married couples to engage in sexual activity willingly, and the intimacy it provides is essential to marriage. Living separately for 12 months without cohabitation or sexual relations is a legal ground for divorce in Maryland. However, one spouse cannot force sex on the other in any way, shape, or form. That spouse could end up being charged with marital rape, earning a prison sentence.
Understanding marital rape
According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, marital rape is “sexual intercourse with a spouse without consent or by force, the threat of force or intimidation.” It can also happen when one spouse cannot consent due to mental or physical incapacity.
How prosecutors prove marital rape
To prove that rape occurred in a marriage, prosecutors don’t have to show any physical evidence. They can instead rely on testimony from the victim about the events. For example, the victim might say that their spouse threatened them with violence if they didn’t engage in sexual activity. Or, the victim could testify that they repeatedly said “no” or “stop,” but their spouse continued anyway.
The penalties for marital rape in Maryland
If convicted of marital rape, a person faces up to 25 years in prison. Additionally, the person will have to register as a sex offender in Maryland. This registration means their name and other personal information will be available to the public via an online database.
It’s important to note that even if the couple is going through a divorce or legal separation, one spouse cannot use sex to gain an advantage in custody or property division proceedings. Doing so could still lead to criminal charges.
Possible defenses to marital rape charges in Maryland
The most common criminal defense to marital rape is consent. There are instances where a spouse can assume their partner consented to sex when they wear revealing clothes or makes out with them. However, there are also occasions where there’s an absence of a “no” when a spouse is making advances.
It can be difficult when a partner denies sex, but this should not lead to forced or coerced intercourse. If you are experiencing such a situation, it’s best to consider options such as communicating with your partner or seeking divorce if things seem not to work out.