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Rape in Marriage - The South Australian Experience (From Violence in the Family - A Collection of Conference Papers, P 137-144, 1980, Jocelynne A Scutt, ed. - See NCJ-73400)

NCJ Number
D Chappell
Date Published
8 pages
New South Australian legislation with regard to marital rape and the reasons for its lack of impact are discussed.
The most extensive change of Australian rape laws has taken place in South Australia. Against the decision of the Mitchell Committee (the South Australian Criminal Law and Penal Methods Reform Committee), the Government enacted a law according to which a person can be convicted of spouse rape is the assault occasioned or threatened bodily harm, if the act involved gross indecency or the threat of such, if the act was calculated or threatened to seriously humiliate the spouse, or if it involved the threat of a criminal act against any person. Since the enactment of the law in 1976, only two official complaints were filed by women. A set of interviews with police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, politicians, and women's groups indicates that the lack of interest in the law does not imply the absence of marital rape, but that raped women fail to report the matter to the police. The interviews suggest a number of reasons for this: female distrust in the police and the desire not to have anything to do with them; the preference of raped women to obtain a divorce rather than get involved in a criminal trial; the tendency to perceive sexual violence as merely one part of the general violence that women tolerate: and unawareness that they had in fact been raped. The South Australian experience indicates that an apparently highly controversial criminal law can be implemented into society with scarcely a ripple. The article includes 7 bibliographic footnotes.


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