No parent looks forward to a custody battle in court, but a Delaware mother is facing a fight that is even more troubling than most. The mom is an incest victim who gave birth to a child after months of alleged sexual abuse. The father? Her own uncle, who has convinced a court that he deserves custodial and parental rights.
If ever there were a case for severing ties between a parent and child, this would be it, don't you think?
The case has made national news because of the difficult conversations it creates, among them whether an alleged rapist should be allowed contact with a child born of rape and what measures should be put in place to protect the child both physically and emotionally. It also opens up the debate over what should happen to the children of incest victims.
The uncle has acknowledged having sex with his niece. But he claims that the sex was consensual -- despite the relationship between him and his niece and despite the fact that she alleged the assaults began when she was 14 and was just 17 when she became pregnant. At the time, the mother, who is now 28, kept the identity of her child's father and the alleged molestation a secret. It was only in 2012 that she opened up to police, stating she'd been too scared as a teenager to come forward (and wouldn't you be?).
The uncle pleaded guilty to an incest charge, but a rape charge was dropped by prosecutors. And the courts have granted him "substantial" custodial and parental rights of the child, who is now 10.
Without a rape conviction, it's certainly harder on the courts to declare the father unfit. But surely even without it, a family court judge can try to put together the jigsaw puzzle and see that things just don't fit.
The mom, who is now 28, got pregnant at 17. Her uncle is the father. And he is now 38.
Folks, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck, right? Well this walks like an inappropriate sexual relationship with an older relative and quacks like one too.
And now we've got a kid in the mix! And the child's best interests need to be examined.
Let's put aside all the allegations from this woman and her fears that her child might also be molested if the father gets to spend time with her alone (which sound pretty valid but of course are harder to prove without that rape charge).
Does putting an adult male, who was having sex with his teenage niece, who committed incest, in charge of this child's well-being really make sense? The man actually admitted in court that he makes extraordinarily bad choices ... and now we want him to be able to make choices about what happens to a child?
Even without a rape charge, incest is an offense so serious that it should render the perpetrator unfit to parent and thus unable to snag custodial rights. I only hope this poor mom can win her case.
What do you think should happen here? Should "dad" have parental rights?
Image via zeeweez/Flickr