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The Ultimate Weapon?: Demythologizing Spousal Rape and Reconceptualizing Its Prosecution

Lisa R. Eskow
Stanford Law Review
Vol. 48, No. 3 (Feb., 1996), pp. 677-709
Published by: Stanford Law Review
DOI: 10.2307/1229280
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1229280
Page Count: 33
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The Ultimate Weapon?: Demythologizing Spousal Rape and Reconceptualizing Its Prosecution
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Abstract

In this note, Lisa Eskow examines the historical roots and lingering traces of the marital rape exemption, which shields husbands from prosecution for sexual assault of their wives. Today, every state criminalizes marital rape to some degree; yet, cultural barriers continue to impede successful prosecution of this crime. Marital rape encompasses two of the most sensitive and misunderstood areas of criminalized behavior: domestic violence and sexual assault. Analyzing both the myths surrounding sex within marriage and the persistence of a domestic privacy taboo, Eskow explores the ways in which cultural attitudes shape prosecutors' approaches to marital rape. Presenting interviews with sex crimes prosecutors and legislative activists, Eskow constructs a case study of California's treatment of marital rape, both in the Penal Code and in the courtroom. Drawing on these and other findings, she suggests legislative reform strategies and creative lawyering tactics to facilitate more effective prosecution of marital rapists.

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