Donald Trump’s Aide: Yes, You Can Legally Rape Your Spouse. Reality: Complicated
Michael Cohen, aide to presidential candidate Donald Trump, explaining that Donald Trump could not have possibly raped Ivana Trump in 1993 because they were married:
“You’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as a private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse.”
“It is true,” Cohen added. “You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”
CNN quotes RAINN activist Scott Berkowitz as definitively debunking Cohen’s claim:
“Marital rape has been illegal in all 50 states since 1993 and non-consensual sex between spouses does in fact constitute rape, said Scott Berkowitz, the president and founder of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.”
But legal reality lies somewhere uncomfortably in between these two claims. For a short-form version of the current state of marital rape law, visit the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape, which agrees in part with Berkowitz by noting that as of 1993, all 50 states had some degree of prohibition of rape in marriage. But the NCMDR also notes that in 30 states, a greater degree of violence or evidence is required to prosecute marital rape. Jennifer J. McMahon compiled a detailed list of the inconsistent conditions and exemptions regarding marital rape as opposed to non-marital rape in those states for her doctoral dissertation, and ties differences between the states to women’s greater or lesser labor force participation, among other factors.