Rape in marriage is rarely a one-off situation

Rape is one of the most underreported crimes in Poland, especially when it occurs in a relationship. Every fourth Pole believes that there is no such thing as a marital rape.

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
Rape in marriage is rarely a one-off situation - NewsMavens
Violent husband. Value Stock/East News

Why this story matters:

Rape is what happens when you get pulled into the dark corner of the park. Or what happens after you drink a cocktail spiked with roofies at a party. A rapist is a stranger -- faceless and anonymous.

Luckily, these sort of stereotypes no longer dominate conversations about what rape is. But what remains undiscussed in Poland is the fact that a majority of women have experienced sexual violence in a relationship.

Official police statistics do not reflect the scale of the phenomenon.

It is estimated that 90% of rapes in Poland are not reported. But in 60% of the reported cases the woman’s husband is the perpetrator.

It doesn’t help to raise social awareness that, from time to time, we hear politicians claiming that one cannot rape a wife, just as it is impossible to rape a prostitute.

A few years ago, one of the leading Polish right-wing politicians, Janusz Korwin-Mikke (you may recall his bow tie and ardent anti-EU speeches at the European Parliament) made headlines after he claimed that “to some extent, women always need to be raped.” “They pretend to be resisting, so you have to be able to distinguish if you can push it or not,” he continued without a sign of embarrassment.

Somehow, both men and women feel that, once they enter into the realm of marriage, it is as if criminal law and human rights are no longer in force.

Many women believe that they owe something to the men, especially if they are the sole breadwinners. Men often consider themselves to be the owners of their wives. This is of course a generalization but is nonetheless true of at least 4% of Polish households.

Details from the story:

  • In 2016, 42,000 women across the EU were interviewed for a ground-breaking publication ”Violence against women: an EU wide survey“. 4% of Polish women admitted to having experienced sexual violence in a relationship. This was one of the lowest percentages among the countries surveyed. The EU average was 7%.
  • Every tenth married woman in the UK has been raped multiple times by her partner. In Germany, 2.5 mln women were victims of marital rape.
  • Since 1969, marital rape is officially a crime in Poland. However, in 2010, a survey conducted by TNS OBOP showed that 23% of Poles believe that “there is no such thing as rape in a marriage”.
  • 10% of marital rapes are considered to be brutal or cruel, according to expert Aneta Michalska-Warias. In 16% of the cases, the perpetrators used different objects, such as sticks, candles, bottles and deodorants,
  • Sexual violence is rarely a one-time incident. 30% of the survivors were raped more than 20 times over the course of the relationship.
  • In Poland, the maximum prison sentence for a rape is 12 years. According to the law, there is no distinction between a situation where the perpetrator knew the victim or not. In France on the other hand, if the perpetrator remained in an intimate relationship with the victim, he is subject to a more severe punishment.
  • The latest cover story of the “WO” magazine by Bożena Aksamit features stories of Polish women who were raped by their husbands. One of the perpetrators raped his wife in a park, recorded it on his mobile phone and later showed the footage to their 17-year old son. In another case, a 78-old woman, with health problems, was forced to have sexual intercourses by her husband who claimed that “it is what a woman is for”.
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NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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