Betrayal of Trust
Although spousal rape is punishable by law in all 50 states, many offenses go unreported. Two women who hid their shame for years are finally speaking out. They want every woman in America to know it can happen to anyone.
In 2005, Tascha, a wife and mother, was crowned Mrs. Oklahoma. "Whenever someone sees the crown they think, 'She has it all together, she's beautiful, she's well spoken, she's well rounded and educated,'" she says.
What many people don't know is that Tascha is a spousal rape survivor. "Underneath it all, there was a really dark period in my life that no one suspected, because I didn't share with anyone," she says. "Friends didn't know, family didn't know. It was something that I basically took on myself, by myself."
"In the beginning he was very outgoing, very personable, handsome," she says. "He was all of those things I think that someone looks for in a man. Then, everything just started slowly changing."
Less than a year into their marriage, Tascha says Gerald began alienating her from her family and lashing out verbally. Despite the signs, she says she never thought she was being abused. "He had never hit me," she says.
That all changed on the night of November 10, 2001. On the way home from a concert, Tascha says Gerald flew into a jealous rage and began beating her in the car. "He doubled up his fist and just reached into the back of the seat and punched me with his fist," she says. "I was kicking and screaming and trying to get out of the car, and he was holding me down."
During the attack, Tascha says she told her husband she was leaving him, which only made the situation worse. "I had told myself throughout my life that when a man hits me, that's it. That's the breaking point," she says. "Unfortunately, that was a little too late."
When they arrived home, she says Gerald grabbed her head and slammed her into the ground. This was just the beginning of a night of violence that nearly ended Tascha's life.
At one point, Tascha says she managed to get away and run out onto the front lawn. Gerald caught her and threw her to the ground. Then, he gave her a choice. "When no one came out of their doors or came to help, that's when he gave me the option that he would kill me in the yard or he would take me back in the house and kill me," she says.
To prevent her from escaping again, she says Gerald blocked the back door with the dryer and pushed their couch up against the front door. "He had ripped the phones out of the wall and told me that no one was going to come save me," Tascha says.
At first, Tascha says she was in shock. "He had never laid a hand on me before," she says. "I was upset because I just...I couldn't believe [it]."
After repeated rapes, she says her husband turned to her and said, "Well, let's go to sleep now."
"I laid there until I thought he was good and asleep," she says. "Then, I crawled onto the floor and out the back and out a window."
Tascha decided to press charges and file for a divorce. Gerald was convicted and sentenced to 52 years for domestic abuse, assault and battery, rape by force, forcible sodomy and two counts of rape by instrumentation. Later, his sentence was reduced to 22 years.
Though Gerald will be eligible for parole in 2019, Tascha says she's not afraid of her ex-husband anymore. Looking back, she says she's realized that night in 2001 wasn't the first time he had raped her. "Many times I said, 'No, I don't want to do that.' And I didn't have a choice," she says. "Because he was my husband, I never associated what was happening as being rape. He was someone I loved."
Oprah says the reason she's doing this show is to help people understand that if they're forced into sex by anyone, it's rape. "Even if it's your husband, your best friend or an intimate partner—rape is rape," she says. "[Tascha] was one of those women who didn't know that, and I'm sure that there are many women who are watching us throughout the world right now who also didn't know that."
Tascha is now remarried, but she remains dedicated to helping other abuse survivors. "I'm not ashamed of being a victim of rape and domestic violence," she says. "So if I can help someone, then I will. If I can share my story, I will do that."
When she first married her husband, Jaime, Doris says the relationship was perfect. "He was just this charming, wonderful man," she says.
Then after three years, Doris says they began fighting more frequently, especially about sex. She says he accused her of not loving him and of having an affair. She says he also demanded that she perform sex acts she wasn't comfortable with.
After calming him down and getting him to put the knife away, Doris says he demanded they have sex. "Basically he said, 'Well, if you love me, you'll have sex with me.'" she says. "I told him no. I said, 'We're not going to have sex now. How could you ask me to do that after what you just did?'"
Jaime then became angry, ripped her clothes off and forced himself on her, Doris says. "I cried the whole time and he didn't even care," she says. "After he was done with his act, he came and he told me he was sorry."
Though this was a clear case of spousal rape, Doris did not report it. "In my mind it would have been difficult for people to believe me," she says. "I was thought of as very strong—which I still believe I'm very strong—but I was ashamed. ... I was in complete denial."
As Doris left her car, she says Jaime rushed toward her and grabbed her arm. "At that point he told me, 'You're coming with me,' And I told him, 'No I'm not. I'm not going with you,'" she says. "I tried to pull away, but then he showed me his gun. At that point I was so scared...I thought he was going to just shoot me."
Doris, who was unarmed, says Jaime forced her into his car and drove her to the small town of Boone, Colorado, where he raped her again.
At sentencing, one of Doris's two daughters—neither of whom was fathered by Jaime—made a statement against him. "She said that Jaime deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life because of what he put her mommy through and family through," Doris says. "And that if he were to get out, she would be in fear of her life."
Marital rape remains an underreported crime for a variety of reasons, Lisa says. For instance, many women are embarrassed to tell anyone. Or they think it's in their marital vows to accept forced sex. They may also think they have brought the rape upon themselves for some reason.
Some may not even believe they were actually raped. What constitutes marital rape? "Forcing you physically, not just emotionally. Pinning you down. Hurting you. Threatening you with other violence in the future even if they're not hitting you at that moment," Lisa says. "That's rape."
"It doesn't matter if you're wearing a wedding ring. It doesn't matter if he's the father of your children. It doesn't matter if you've been living together for 20 years," she says. "If somebody is threatening you or forcing you or you are fearful that you have to do this, it's rape. It's as if somebody pulls you under a bush in the dark with a knife at your throat."
Also, if someone rapes you—whether it's your husband or boyfriend—Lisa says you should go to the hospital within 48 hours and request a rape kit. "There are trained nurses, sexual assault nurse examiners. They know how to do evidence collection," she says. "[If you go to trial,] you need to have the documentation from the hospital."
Even if the victim is not ready to press charges, Lisa suggests they fill out a police report and find a safe place to go.
"Every time, a perpetrator is going to say, 'She wanted it.' They use a consent defense, and they need to show you did not consent," she says. "You have a right to say no."
Find out how to create an escape plan.
To find help in your area, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.
How to help someone you suspect is being abused