Why Do Rapists Have Custody & Visitation Rights in These 31 States?

Say What!? 66

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Shauna Prewitt's story of rape followed by a pregnancy left me feeling heartbroken for her, stunned, and inspired by her strength all at once. But there was one detail that made me gasp out loud: "In the vast majority of states -- 31 -- men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy."

Rapists have custody and visitation rights to the children they forcibly fathered?!? Who thought THAT was a good idea? Oh wait, let me guess -- yes, probably some unraped men who are empathy-deficient, poor souls. Happens to the best of them, right Congressman Akin?

The man who raped Prewitt actually did try to get custody of her daughter. Are you kidding me?!? "But thankfully I got lucky and his visitation rights were terminated," she said in an interview. It's not so much that there are laws specifically granting rapists those rights -- it's that they get those rights by default just by fathering a child any which way. States have actually had to pass laws that remove those rights from rapists.

Prewitt goes on to say that this might motivate a woman to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for an agreement from the rapist that he won't request access to her child. In other words, allowing rights to the rapist gives him leverage for getting away with rape. Splendid. Well done, assholes who defend rapists.

So. Which 31 states are we talking about? These are the states where we have some work to do. Daily Kos was able to get a little info on this. If I'm reading this correctly and their info is good, the following states have laws or provisions that at least limit a rapists' visitation and custody rights: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Missouri (Akin's state: "biological father's guilty plea or conviction of forcible rape of the birth mother is conclusive evidence to termination of his rights"), Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

The rest of you states: You're on notice. Let's fix this: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming.

Needless to say, I think the idea of a rapist making custody or visitation claims is heinous. You should lose certain rights when you rape a woman. Being a regular presence in your victim's life -- as you'd have to be if you shared custody or made visits -- is an unreasonable burden on her. Women who choose to keep a pregnancy resulting from rape and who raise their children usually take that responsibility seriously. They need support, not another threat in their lives.

Do you think a rapist should have custody or visitation rights of the children they father from rape?


Image via johntintinjordan/Flickr

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Amy Lynn

obviously, my first answer is HELL NO they should not have rights.

then, if you think about how there are SOME women (repeat, some.) that claim rape because they got drunk and slept with someone, etc. i can understand why there has to be a specific law regarding this issue. for a legitimate rapist, they should absolutely NOT have any types of rights to the child, in my opinion. but in situations where you're in the gray area - i think that would have to be a case by case basis.

TMK919 TMK919

I agree 100% with the above comment from Amy Lynn

nonmember avatar Joshua

Amy. Dear Christ. Rape is rape. There is no such thing as legitimate rape or forcible rape. In the eyes of the law, regardless of the circumstances, if a man is convicted of rape then it's rape. I'm sure there may be women who take advantage of this, and it's unfortunate for those guys, but laws are absolute - rape is rape is rape. Let's not give visitation rights to all rapists just because a small minority *might* not be guilty.

EmmaF... EmmaFromEire

''but thankfully  I got lucky and his visitation rights were terminated''


Surely that speaks volumes? That she feels lucky those rights were terminated? No rapist should have access to the child they forcibly fathered. Why should the child's mother be forced to have contact with a man who raped her? Why should a child spend time with a monsterous human being, one who sexually assaulted someone, caused them considerable physical and psychological pain and distress? 

But maybe it'll be okay. After all, if it were a ''legitimate rape'' the victim's body would have ''shut that whole thing down''.

nonmember avatar guest

@Amy Lynn - "legitimate rapist?" Is your last name Akin? You are a repulsive excuse for a woman and I hope any child unlucky enough to be born to you gets taken away from you...SOON!

Zach Totz

Amy, if someone is drunk, they cannot consent because their judgment is impaired, thus it is RAPE. Get that through your head!

nonmember avatar DivorcednowObvs

One time I was out of my mind stoned on xanax, I called up my husbands best friend, told him to pick me up, went to his house and screwed him. My judgement was impaired and I barely remembered it after. But I totally initiated it and had been wanting to do it for months anyways. By Zachs standards that's rape cause my judgement was impaired, and I definitely wouldn't actually have done it sober... would have been really really easy to do like my friends all did at the time and told my husband it was rape cause I was messed up.

However it was not rape it was a bad decision and it happens more than you people would like to realize and gets called rape. Now my husband beating me and raping and nearly killing me after he found out, THAT was legitimate.

Lisa Moore

Joshua of course rape is rape. A girl getting drunk at a party and having consensual sex and then later for whatever reason claims rape, however, is not rape. Or a girl who has sex with a guy and then he doesn't want to be in a relationship so she claims rape, is also not rape. Class dismissed.

Lisa Moore

@ Zach that is not true. So if the man and the woman are drunk and have sex did they rape each other?

Lisa Moore

And @ "guest" way to tske it to the extreme. People always call people bad parents for very little reason. Calm down lady.

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