Briana Heaney Published

Marital Exemption For Sexual Abuse Could Be Removed From State Code

A gavel rests on a wooden block. In the background is a scale representing checks and balances.Africa Studio/Adobe Stock

Currently there is a exemption for sexual abuse in marriage. Monday the Senate passed a bill that would change that. 

The bill requires that there was physical force that overcame earnest resistance. 

Lead sponsor of the bill, Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, said he is following in the steps of his predecessor, the late Sen. Judith Herndon who removed the marital exception from the state’s sexual assault code.  She was the only woman in the Senate at the time. 

In West Virginia sexual assault is in most cases considered rape. Sexual abuse is unwanted groping or otherwise unwanted touching inappropriately.

“So this is carrying on what I believe to be an unfinished job that she wasn’t able to get done for she unfortunately passed away in 1980,” Weld said. “Sexual abuse currently in code has an exception, what is known as the marital exception. And so that if you are married to somebody, and you touch them in a private area as the result of forcible compulsion, you cannot be convicted of a crime.” 

Sen. Michael Azinger, R-Wood, was one of nine no votes. He said he doesn’t have a problem with the entire bill, just parts of it. 

“If you have just your general play between husband and wife,” Azinger said. “That goes on in every marriage in every house and something goes bad, then a divorce comes along with something like that. That could be used potentially against the husband in later times.”