Earlier this week a really brave lady came forward to tell her story of marital rape on the Opinion Line. Her description of what happened to her is absolutely chilling, but it’s what failed to happen afterwards that really struck me. Despite her reporting what happened to the Gardaí, and despite her husband’s abuse being a factor in their legal separation, there have been no consequences. He has never been questioned, let alone charged, and her children still see him. She has to hand them over. How is this right?
As it turns out, her story is pretty common. According to Sonya Donnelly, who did her thesis on this, there has been ONE conviction for marital rape since the law was introduced in Ireland. ONE. When you consider that most rape victims are raped by a family member or intimate partner there is absolutely no way on earth that is reflective of what’s actually happening.
The other thing that struck me is the level of general ignorance around consent. People actually don’t know that consent is required every single time sexual activity is initiated. No matter whether you’re going out, living together, married, have bought your grave… consent is always, always required. No means no. It always means no, and right of refusal always applies, for both men and women. Nobody has the “right” to have sex. You always have the right to refuse sex.
George Hook was roundly criticised for his comments but the fact is, he’s not the only person who thought there was such a thing as “presumed consent”.
Listen back to Susan’s story here.