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Closing the Spousal Rape Loophole in Ohio: Survivors Demand Justice

Sarah Tucker believes that survivors of sexual assault committed by their spouses have one straightforward request of the Ohio Legislature: Please assist us. As a survivor herself, Tucker had to deal with the trauma of being raped by her ex-husband in addition to the upsetting reality of law enforcement inaction because Ohio’s sex offense laws had an exemption for married couples.

Seeking Justice

Tucker faced several obstacles in her difficult road to escape her abuser. Even after she succeeds in severing her relationship with her husband, justice is still elusive. Like many survivors, she struggles with the long-term effects of trauma and finds comfort in other forms of support and mental health care.

A Legislative Solution

In an important step toward removing the spousal rape loophole, proponents of House Bill 161 testified before the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee recently. The purpose of this bill is to do away with the spousal exemptions to a number of sexual offenses, such as sexual assault, sexual battery, rape, unlawful sexual behavior with a minor, and crude sexual imposition.

Analyzing the Bill

HB 161 aims to eliminate the spousal exception for rape, regardless of whether the spouses live together or apart, according to a Legislative Service Commission report. It also gives people the ability to testify against their spouses in situations involving these violations, guaranteeing survivors the chance to pursue justice.

National Context

Just eleven states still provide spousal exceptions in situations of rape and sexual assault, including Ohio. Closing this loophole, according to supporters, is crucial to giving survivors the justice they are due and averting more trauma.

Advocating for Change

Licensed social worker and survivor advocate Rebecca Peckinpaugh stresses the significance of reducing barriers to justice for victims of sexual assault. Denying survivors the chance to pursue justice, in her opinion, is irresponsible and retraumatizing.

The Urgency of Action

Information from institutions like the National Institute of Justice emphasizes how commonplace intimate partner sexual assault is. Legislative action is obviously needed, as 40% to 45% of women in violent relationships report having been sexually assaulted by a spouse.

A Public Health Crisis

The urgent need for action is emphasized by Davina Cooper, director of rural programs for Women Helping Women, particularly in view of the escalating rates of intimate partner abuse. According to Cooper, intimate partner violence is a public health emergency that impacts not just the victims but also their families, communities, and offspring.

Progress and Hope

With support from both parties, House Bill 161 has already cleared the Ohio House. If the state Senate approves the bill, it will move one step closer to becoming law, giving survivors hope and marking an important milestone in the direction of justice and accountability.

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