In Summary
  • According to Dr Muller, where marital rape reoccurs, the perpetrator will often subject their spouse to different types of abuse.
  • “They may use verbal and psychological means of control over their spouses. These may include acts of humiliation such as anal or oral rape,” he says.
  • Additionally, says Susan Gacheru, a family therapist based in Nakuru, there are instances of rape that will take up a form of manipulation to achieve.

Although rape is a serious crime, it is often overlooked when it is committed by a husband against his wife. To begin with, not too many couples will want to acknowledge marital rape, whether they are the victims or the perpetrators. According to Nairobi-based psychologist Ken Munyua, this is because many couples entering marriage view the institution as the gate-pass to unlimited and readily available sex. “Many couples view marriage as a source of sex, and as a result, outright denial of sex is not seen as a right that one partner still holds,” he says. “If a couple is used to having regular sex, then one partner says they have been raped, they will face the hard burden of proving it.” Alarmingly, there are many women who also do not believe marital rape exists.

Dr Robert Muller, the author of Trauma and the Avoidant Client, says that this has led to scenarios where marital rape is perceived as being less traumatic than rape by, say, a stranger. “This is .. wrong … because studies show that victims of marital rape will experience long lasting effects from the violation.” Marital rape will also likely reoccur. According to psychologist Patrick Musau, this is partly because of certain myths such as the belief that once married, a woman’s body is to be dominated and owned by her husband. “The husband believes that huyu ni wangu na hawezi kuninyima (I own her; she can’t deny me sex), and will proceed to have sex with her whether she wants it or not,” he says.

TYPES OF ABUSE IN MARITAL RAPE

According to Dr Muller, where marital rape reoccurs, the perpetrator will often subject their spouse to different types of abuse. “They may use verbal and psychological means of control over their spouses. These may include acts of humiliation such as anal or oral rape,” he says. Additionally, says Susan Gacheru, a family therapist based in Nakuru, there are instances of rape that will take up a form of manipulation to achieve. “This form of forced sex will start with verbal abuse and accusations. He may say she’s not a good wife, it will be her fault if he cheats, she is bad in bed and doesn’t satisfy him. Feeling cowed, the wife will give in even though she will be left feeling grossly violated,” she says.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

Locally, not too many cases of rape within marriage have lived to have their fair day in court. According to Murigi Kamande, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, The Sexual Offences Act currently does not technically or directly recognise the concept of marital rape. “There is a presumption that with marriage comes consent. This is why it might be quite difficult for a spouse who claims to have undergone marital rape to prove that sex did occur without their consent,” he says. Mr Kamande notes that while there have been attempts to recognise marital rape, a proposed amendment that sought to introduce this concept was defeated in Parliament.