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Oregon v. Rideout


For the first time in modern American history, a man faced trial for raping his wife. A national public discussion of the issue followed questioning whether a man had an absolute sexual right to his spouse's--or cohabitant's--body. Two other states besides Oregon had passed laws that did not grant married (or cohabitating) men immunity from the rape of their wives--and New Jersey was about to come on board. The Rideout trial led many other states to abolish marital and cohabitation exemptions to rape.

In 1978, Oregon, Delaware, and Iowa were the only states that did not recognize "marital privilege" as a defense against rape. All other states followed common law, which defined rape as "the forcible penetration of the body of a woman not the wife of the perpetrator."

On 10 October 1978, 23-year-old Greta Rideout telephoned the police for help, saying "My husband just got through beating me." When a police officer arrived at her home, Rideout said her husband had raped her. On 18 October, John Rideout was indicted on a charge of first degree rape.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Oregon v. Rideout - Significance, Does Marriage Mean Consent?, No Help From Friends . . ., Lose One, Win Some