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?
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