VOICES: Marital rape is still legal in Ohio, but history was made in the House.

Every 68 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2020 National Crime Victimization Survey.

It is a common misconception that the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone unknown or not close to the victim. I know this all too well because when I was 15-years old I was raped by a known person.

It’s time the world knows the truth on just who exactly is committing this deplorable crime against women.

73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger. 28% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by intimate partners, 7% by a relative of the victim, and perhaps most shocking, 30% of adult rape cases were committed by husbands, common-law partners, or boyfriends. These crimes are not being carried out by strangers on random women.

Like my attack, 55% of sexual assaults happen at or near the victim’s home. This is not happening in dark alleys, this is not happening because victims are in “the wrong place, at the wrong time.” This is happening in homes, where everyone should feel safe and secure.

The federal government criminalized marital rape by adding it to the sexual assault code in 1993. Since that date, most states have closed any loopholes in their laws that exempted spouses from prosecution for rape or assault against a spouse in all circumstances.

However, Ohio remains one of eleven states in which a loophole still exists that protects predators from prosecution in the case of spousal rape and other sexual offenses; allowing these heinous acts to escape prosecution as long as no “threat of force or violence” exists.

In 1985 lawmakers first introduced legislation that would have repealed the spousal rape exception from the Ohio Revised Code. Different versions of this bill had since been introduced in the 133rd and 134th General Assembly’s, but none of these efforts ever made it out of committee.

Last week, the Ohio House voted 74-1 to pass House Bill 161, which finally put an end to the spousal immunity for rape, sexual battery, and other crimes of sexual violence. Simply put, House Bill 161 corrects an arcane exception in the Ohio Revised Code-that is indicative of a bygone era and long overdue for a remedy.

Sexual assault is never acceptable, under any circumstances. Single or married, we all deserve a criminal justice system that treats people equally. We should have a criminal justice system that empowers survivors to seek justice. A criminal justice system that believes people when they say that they have been wronged. This piece of legislation will add Ohio to the list of states who have rid their code of this loophole. We are now one step closer to making Ohio a safer place to live for all survivors of sexual abuse crimes.

I am thrilled that HB 161 has passed the House; this is a historic day. We are one step closer to making Ohio a safer place to live for all survivors of sexual abuse crimes. The Ohio House has done what they have needed to do; and now it is time for the Ohio Senate to do what is right. I encourage everyone to reach out to their state senators to advocate for this vital piece of legislation.

Representative Jessica E. Miranda represents District 28.

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