A 22-year-old Arizona man was astonished to find out that he was the father of a 6-year-old daughter he never knew existed. That's shocking enough. But then he got slapped with an order to pay $15,000 in back child support. And then it gets even worse. He reportedly fathered the child when he was only 14 years old. The child was a product of statutory rape that was committed against him by a 20-year-old woman. But because he'd never pressed charges and she was never found guilty of a crime, the state holds him legally accountable for the child support.
Nick Olivas, now 24, doesn't claim the sex wasn't consensual, but by law, anyone under 15 can't legally consent to sex, making it statutory rape. But at the time, Olivas was just a confused teen who had no idea about rape laws and merely separated from the woman at some point.
Eight years later, he was served with child support payment papers. That was the first he knew that the woman had had a baby and was claiming he was the father.
He says he panicked, ignored the paperwork, and never took a paternity test. Two years later, he says he owes $15,000 plus 10 percent interest.
Olivas is willing to pay child support going forward and wants to be part of the girl's life -- but says he doesn't feel responsible for what he did as a teen, nor should he have to pay for a child he didn't know existed.
He's right. Statutory rape is on the books for a reason. A 14-year-old wouldn't be able to fathom the huge responsibility that sex is. A kid that young doesn't understand, "Okay, if I have sex with this woman, I might end up with a child I need to support for 18 years." A kid that young wouldn't even be able to make a mature decision as to whether or not sex was even desirable or wanted. There's more to sex than just your hormones or what you may want in a moment of weakness or loneliness -- but a teen wouldn't know that.
An adult does know these things. That is why when an adult has sex with a child, it's wrong and taking advantage. That's why it's called rape. There doesn't have to be a weapon and physical force involved for it to be completely one-sided.
But since the woman was not found guilty of sexual assault, the state has a right to seek child support if the mother tries to get state financial assistance. Other states have ruled that way too.
But that basically says the rape victim knew the consequences of having sex and was partly responsible for what happened. And that is impossible.
Kudos to Olivas for wanting to help out his daughter from now on -- but at 14, he had no way of protecting himself against an adult who made a terrible decision for both of them. He shouldn't have to pay for that now.
Should he have to pay?
Image via Chris Brookes/Flickr