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Know the Laws:

UPDATED July 7, 2015

Marital / Partner Rape

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Below you will find information about rape and unwanted sexual contact by a spouse or intimate partner.

Actions you can take

back to topWhat can I do if my spouse or partner has sexually assaulted and/or raped me?

The following are some suggestions of how to get the practical and emotional support you need:

  • Get to a safe place (for example, the nearest hospital, police precinct, or someone’s home).
  • You can call 911 for immediate police protection and assistance. You can also call one of a number of hotlines to discuss your options for reporting the assault.  You can find national hotlines on our National Organizations - Rape/Sexual Assault page.
  • Go to your local hospital emergency room for immediate medical care to check for injury, prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, get counseling and so that evidence of the rape can be collected for possible future prosecution.  Evidence collection does not require you to place a report with the police or press charges; it just preserves these options for the future. For the purposes of evidence collection, it is best to avoid urinating, showering, combing your hair or changing your clothes before going to the hospital. Many states have a crime victim compensation program that can assist you with ongoing medical and counseling expenses and other expenses related to the assault. Your local rape crisis program can provide more information about this process and your rights as a crime victim - for a list of local programs, go to the RAINN website
  • Tell someone you trust who can support and assist you.
  • Call the nearest rape crisis program for crisis intervention, hospital accompaniment, counseling, courtroom advocacy, support groups, information and referral.* You can find these organizations that support sexual assault victims on our National Organizations - Rape/Sexual Assault page.
* This information was adapted from the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault website.

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back to topCan I file for a restraining order against my spouse or partner?

Maybe – it will depend on whether your state recognizes sexual assault as part of the legal definition of “domestic violence” for the purposes of getting a restraining order, although the majority of states do include sexual assault as a legal reason for granting an order. (If you are not married to the abuser, it will also depend on the rules of your state regarding non-married intimate partners' ability to file for protective orders).  Please go to our Restraining Orders page for your state to find out more information on how to file, who can file, and how your state defines “domestic violence” for the purposes of getting a restraining order.

As part of a restraining order, you can ask the judge that the abuser be removed from the home that you share with him/her. However, if the judge does not grant this, you may have to be the one who leaves the home to protect yourself.   Please go to our Getting Ready to Leave  page for more information and tips on leaving safely -- but be aware that if you have children with the abuser, leaving without your children could hurt your chances at custody.   It is a good idea to speak with an attorney that knows the custody laws of your state before leaving. Please go to our Finding a Lawyer page to find a lawyer who specializes in custody issues in your state.

Did you find this information helpful?
WomensLaw.org would like to thank Louise McOrmond-Plummer for inspiring us to create this page and for her input.

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