RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It may be one of the most insidious crimes a person can commit, yet it hasn't been that long since spousal rape was actually declared illegal in Virginia.
One victim, who was also a licensed clinical psychologist when she was sexually assaulted by her then-husband, says it can happen to anyone.
"I just held on and tried to get through it, and I just hoped that nothing was going to happen to my baby, but it was a terrible feeling because I felt that I was betraying my unborn child, as well as doing something against my will," said Dr. Alice Twining, clinical psychologist and spousal rape victim.
It has been 30 years since Alice Twining says she was the victim of spousal rape. The years have lessened the pain, but they haven't faded the memories.
"I felt like I had to keep going for my child," Twining said.
Twining had obtained her PhD and was a licensed clinical psychologist when she met the man who would become her husband. He was also a PhD and vice president of the organization where she worked.
"Very, very smart. Very charismatic. It very quickly got romantic. He knew I was ready to have children and so that was what he was pushing on and we talked a lot about that and being good parents and what it meant to provide good values," Twining said.
Within seven months they were married. Soon after that she became pregnant. That's when she says things started to unravel.
Her husband accepted a new position, and when she was nine months pregnant, he insisted that she leave her support system and move with him across the country from Boston to California. She was afraid she would have the baby on the plane.
"And one of the strategies that these kind of people use is quick romance and also moving the person away so they're isolated," Twining said.
Once they got to California, she says her husband started to act violently by breaking things. Plus, she says her pregnancy was high risk, yet her husband demanded sex every day.
"The doctor said very clearly, do not have any more intercourse, because the baby's due in a week or maybe less and it could be very harmful to the fetus, and I made this all very clear, and my husband said, 'that doesn't matter to me, I'm more important than anything else,'" Twining said. "It was not a good experience for me to be forced to have sex, it was a terrible experience for me."
After the baby was born, she says there was no letting up. Twining says the demands only increased...with the insistence that she go to all of her husband's many professional conferences.
"Couldn't be left alone and couldn't be left without his bedroom partner," Twining said.
It was during one of these conferences in Chicago that she and the baby made their escape, while he was out of the hotel room.
"And I just put our stuff in a little bag and took a taxi and I left."
She flew to Boston where she had friends and family.
She moved to Virginia and eventually wound up with full custody of the baby, but not without plenty of threats along the way from her husband.
"There were threats after I left, to hire a contract killer to kill me."
Up until 2002, a person in Virginia could not be changed with raping his or her spouse unless the two lived apart and/or there was bodily injury. But 14 years ago, that changed: A spouse could be charged with raping their partner even if the two live under same roof, and even if there is no bodily injury.
Jerry Kilgore was attorney general at the time and pushed for the law to change.
"Rape is rape, whether it's happening to an unmarried victim or a married victim, and that was our message to the General Assembly, and they agreed with us," Kilgore said.
Twining was among those fighting for the law to change 14 years ago. As both a mental healthcare professional and a victim, she understands the psychological damage of spousal rape, even if the act wasn't violent, as in her case.
"It wasn't about violence, it was about manipulation, coercion," Twining said. "The losses mount up very quickly, the loss of the dream of a great marriage, the loss of safety, the increased fear that she will be experiencing and also whatever the children will pick up."
Twining says she's proof positive that this crime could happen to anyone, even a trained counselor.
"It was very, very hard to think that I would have the strength to get out safely, but I did."
At the time that Twining says she experienced this, the law in California where it happened did not classify the act as a crime.
Twining's then husband died 11 years ago while in prison for an unrelated crime. She has been happily remarried for 26 years.
If you or someone you know needs help out of a domestic violence situation, the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 838-8238. Someone is available 24 hours a day to help.
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