Mandy Boardman had noticed feelings of drowsiness.  She awoke one morning with a half dissolved pill in her mouth to see her husband, David Wise, leaving the room.  But she was not prepared to learn that Wise had been drugging and raping her repeatedly over the course of three years, a fact which she discovered when she found the sex tapes he had been making on his phone. 

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Shortly after this incident, police began a three year police investigation which culminated in a trial lasting through April this year.  On Friday, Wise was finally declared guilty and sentenced to eight years -- not of prison time, but of home-detention.  Boardman, who had been seeking a sentence of 40 years in prison for Wise, was unhappy with the sentence.  "I don't feel that the man who raped me repeatedly for years on end deserves to leave the courtroom when I do, I don't feel like he deserves to sit at home and watch TV and eat ice cream like I can. He deserves to spend many years in prison."  (Read more here!

"During the reading of the sentence, the judge looked at me before he gave the final decision," Boardman told NY Daily News. "I was told that I needed to forgive my attacker and move on."  Boardman’s case and the resultant verdict serve only to reinforce the notion that America is dominated by a rape culture which is poisoning the experiences of women across the country.  And of course the context of Boardman’s rape, which happened at the hands of her husband, adds another layer to the problem. 

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Marital rape was not even a prosecutable crime in America until the 1970s.  Laws were established on a state-by-state basis, and in 1993 North Carolina became the last state to criminalize marital rape.  Some states still treat marital rape differently than regular rape cases, limiting the offenses with which rapists can be charged if their victims are their wives.  Such policies are based on the prevalent and very dated view of sex as a duty in which a married woman must engage.  It was seen as the husband’s prerogative to determine when and where he would have sex with his wife. 

Dated as this idea is, it clearly still holds sway even in America’s court system, where many states treat rape within the domestic sphere as less serious than rape by a dating partner, friend, or stranger.  Legal differences in treatment between marital and other types of rape often include a shorter window within which victims can report their rape (30 days-1 year instead of three years).  Another difference is that many states include the threat or use of force to coerce the victim as necessary in order to prosecute the victim, rather than simply requiring lack of consent. In addition, many states’ laws only cover rape and do not recognize other forms of assault.  

Marital rape is a very serious issue.  It is often associated with other forms of physical and mental abuse, and the victim may live in this environment of abuse over a long period of time.  As in Boardman’s case, such abuse is often a repeated affair.  Victims of marital rape may feel trapped in the relationship because of the commitment which they have made to the marriage or the history which they have with their partner.  They may be financially reliant on the rapist.  In addition, there is often the consideration of children, both in terms of family life and custody.  Boardman, for example, found the sex tapes which her husband was making of him raping her in 2008.  She waited until 2011, however, to report him to the police because she wanted her two children to grow up with a father.  Boardman and Wise divorced in 2009, and Boardman has custody of the children, but Wise is seeking visitation rights. 

The notion that, by taking marriage vows, a woman is somehow abdicating her right to use her body as she wishes is completely unacceptable.  The idea that marriage in any way entails possession of another person or legitimizes violence done against that person is not only harmful but also completely illogical.  Neither Boardman nor any other victim of marital rape should have to experience being told to “forgive” her attacker on the basis of the history of their relationship.  The existence of such a relationship doesn’t make an incident of rape anywhere near acceptable. 

Images courtesy of NY Daily News.