Marital rape was legal in New York thirty years ago

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In defense of old allegations against his boss this week, Donald Trump’s attorney now famously claimed that “you cannot rape your spouse.” But thirty years ago in New York, you could. Up until 1984 marital rape was legal in the state of New York, among others. A 17th Century ruling, passed by the jurist Lord Matthew Hale, stated that a husband could not rape his wife because “by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract.” This was put into the state penal code, which defined rape as “sexual intercourse with a female by forcible compulsion” and defined ‘female’ as “any female person who is not married to the actor.” The problems with the law came to light in 1981, when Denise Liberta was attacked and raped by her estranged husband, Mario Liberta, while he made their 2 year-old watch. Denise was able to take the case to court because of an exception made in 1978 making the wife cease to be rape-able if the couple were separated. It may have been the harsh violence or the cruelty of involving the son that acted as a catalyst in getting Mario Liberta imprisoned, but the court made a unanimous ruling, and in 1984 the law was scrapped for good.

Read the full story at The Daily Beast.

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