Brinks, Pohutsky Introduce Legislation to Close Marital Rape Loophole

LANSING, Mich. (April 22, 2021) — Today, Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) introduced legislation to close a legal loophole in Michigan law that permits marital rape when the perpetrator’s legal spouse is mentally incapacitated.

Currently, Michigan law provides an exemption for being charged with rape in the case of someone’s legal spouse being mentally incapacitated, whether by “influence of a narcotic, anesthetic, or other substance administered to that person without his or her consent, or due to any other act committed upon that person without his or her consent.”

“It is critical that all Michiganders know that a person cannot sexually assault their spouse, regardless of how they accomplish it,” said Elinor Jordan of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence. “Survivors who have already been betrayed by someone they love and trust should not be betrayed again by the law. Further, those who perpetrate sexual assault are emboldened when they learn that their actions have no consequences.”

Senate Bill 373 and House Bill 4699 mirror proposed legislation from 2019 and would end this inhumane loophole for good.

“While Michigan’s marital rape exemption was repealed 30 years ago, we still have a statutory loophole that allows someone to incapacitate their spouse, rape them, and get away with it on a technicality,” Sen. Brinks said. “Having a pre-existing relationship with your rapist shouldn’t make a difference. We need to close this loophole so that going forward, these perpetrators can be brought to justice.”

Similar legislation to end exemptions, especially based on the status of one’s relationship as married, is moving in California and Maryland, and another bill is expected to be signed into law in Idaho.

“There is absolutely no excuse for allowing this reprehensible exemption to exist. If we want to really move Michigan into the 21st century, we have to throw out our 17th century laws,” said Rep. Pohutsky. “A law like this only empowers those who view their spouses as property, preventing justice for Michiganders who have already experienced unspeakable trauma. It’s time for us as a state to make it unequivocally clear that rape is rape in all circumstances — no exceptions.”

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