By Regina Dooley
How would you feel if your best friend or sister told you that her husband raped her? You would probably be outraged. You would certainly encourage her to contact the police and you would definitely insist that she divorce her abusive spouse. Do you think you would feel differently if your husband raped you too? Would you band together or rise against the abusers or would encourage each other to endure it to hold together your marriages and be good wives? How would you react to this news if you knew that your father was abusive to your mother? Or if you knew that your aunts and neighbors endured similar exploitation?
It may seem preposterous to think that anyone would be capable of brushing something so sever under the rug, but this is the dilemma that many women all over the globe are facing. In many part of the world violence is so prevalent that people become desensitized to it. If you are raised witnessing the abuse of your mother, sisters, aunts, and neighbors you are likely to begin to expect that you will go through this kind of battering as well. If your culture as a whole views spousal abuse as a natural part of marriage, you too are likely to turn a blind eye if a sister or friend confides in you.
Many governments do not view wives as independent human beings, but instead as property belonging to their husbands. This practice is especially common in cultures that expect the groom to provide a bride wealth (a generally informal exchange of goods or services from the groom or his family to the brides family for the bride). When governments to not recognize the rights of citizens there is sure to be a rise in violence against those citizens. And those who are not being represented are not likely to speak out against their oppressors. If a woman reaches out because her husband raped her and she is told that it was her fault or that he could not control himself, it is doubtful that her peers will come forward too.
Women are being abused emotionally, physically, and sexually on an international scale. All women should be able to feel safe and protected, even if the perpetrator is their own husband. To create a world where all women have the right to be protected from abuse those of us who already have these rights are responsible for raising awareness. Talking about these less than palatable topics puts pressure on our representatives to work for the rights of women everywhere. The United States has made great strides for women’s rights, but it is still considered distasteful to talk about marital rape. A husband CAN rape his wife and this dirty little secret needs to be dragged out into the daylight and torn to bits it is ever going to end.
Regina Dooley is an anthropology major at East Carolina University.