You learn something every day


Well here is something I did not know – that in 31 states in the US, rapists have parental rights.

Shauna Prewitt was raped and got pregnant (pipe down there in the back, Mr Akin), and had a daughter, and then found out something she did not know.

You could say she was conceived in rape; she was. But she is also so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground. I was wrong again.

It would not be long before I would learn firsthand that 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. When no law prohibits a rapist from exercising these rights, a woman may feel forced to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for the rapist dropping the bid to have access to her child.

Are you fucking kidding me. Rapists can assert custody and visitation rights to the child they conceived through rape?

What country is this? What century is this?

Having fought this injustice for the past several years, I have come to believe that ignorance is to blame for this legal absence. Opponents argue no woman would ever choose to raise the child she conceived through rape. The only two studies to analyze the choices made by pregnant raped women indicate otherwise — at least 30% of women who conceive by rape make this choice.

Others argue that no rapist would ever seek parental rights. Not only does my experience and that of others I know prove otherwise, but it is not surprising that a man who cruelly degrades a woman would also seek to torture her in an even more agonizing way, by seeking access to her child.

What did I do with that sick bucket…

H/t Roger Ebert

Comments

  1. Beatrice says

    Opponents argue no woman would ever choose to raise the child she conceived through rape.

    Others argue that no rapist would ever seek parental rights.

    If those were true (and they are obviously not), what does it matter if there existed a law preventing this thing they say never happens? It’s not like there are no laws that are never enforced or are completely useless.

    But suddenly they are so very worried about adding a useless law. Right. I’m gonna fall for that one.

  2. piegasm says

    So if she’s pregnant she probably wasn’t raped, and if she wants to keep the baby then she definitely wasn’t raped and if she’s not pregnant she’s probably lying anyway. Why don’t they just abandon the pretense and start advocating the legalization of rape?

  3. Pteryxx says

    Why don’t they just abandon the pretense and start advocating the legalization of rape?

    but then what would they accuse scary black men of / threaten uppity women with?

  4. says

    Ugh. We are a sick country.

    I think these laws could be changed, I think public opinion could be won over if it weren’t already there from the start. It would take politicians and a political party willing to bring it up, though.

  5. Bernard Bumner says

    Sometimes I could just weep. Sometimes I’m too shocked to even muster a tear.

    Come to think of it, I have no idea what the position is here in the UK.

  6. says

    I find it amazing that any state, much less 31 states, would grant custody and visitation rights to rapists. I would have thought the default action would be for the court to recognize that while the rapist is the biological father of the child, the rapist also automatically forfeits his parental rights to that child.

  7. gregorylynn says

    On the face of it, this is reprehensible. No rapist should ever be able to force anything on his victim ever again.

    I would be very interested in seeing the list of states that allow this.

    And here’s a question.

    A woman is raped, doesn’t report it so there is no investigation, no trial, and no judgment that the rapist is a rapist.

    A child is delivered and the rapist claims the visitation rights of the father.

    How is the family court supposed to make the determination? Whatever that process is, I can see it failing to make the right decision despite trying very hard to do the right thing.

  8. says

    Hi Ophelia —

    Jeffery – no, I haven’t. Should I? (The url doesn’t look promising.)

    Your instincts about the URL are correct; it is a very long defense of Akin’s comments. I mentioned it just in case you have the stomach to write a rebuttal.

  9. says

    A few things I need to say:

    1. Holy shit balls (I hope it’s okay I said that) what the hell is wrong with these states!?!?!?
    2. DO NOT read the comments over at the CNN article unless you want to stab your eyes out with a fork.
    3. It is so sad we live in a society that still stigmatizes the victim.
    4. Rape victims cannot seem to win either way. If they keep the baby it wasn’t a rape to begin with, if they have an abortion they are baby killers, if they do not want to discuss the details of the attack in minute detail they made it up.

    These people disgust me.

  10. Pinky says

    I am shocked and sickened by this news. Women get the dirty end of the stick in each of the many scenarios my thoughts raced to after reading this; with the child coming in a close second.

    I fail to imagine how, in 31 different states, enough people thought this would be a good idea.

    America is a right wing, religious monster slouching towards oligarchy and tyranny.

  11. onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork says

    Unfortunately, this is not surprising in the least. There’s always a bit of a pendulum shift in the battle between parental rights & best interests of the child (and the mother, in this case), and at the moment, we’re swinging back to parent’s rights. This is taking place in child welfare as well, which is why it isn’t surprising to me, because I have had to allow and even monitor visits between parents who have committed incredible acts of abuse on their children. In five years working in foster care, the only two cases that I was permitted to cease visitation were in a case involving attempted murder, and a case involving severe child sexual abuse & child pornography.

    I actually run a visitation center, and we’ve been given court orders for batterers, child abusers and sexual offenders. Most states consider that parents have an inalienable right to raise their children–regardless of how those children were conceived.

    Yeah. I hate it too. :(

  12. says

    I had only heard about this sort of thing from the movie Johnny Belinda. But I wish I could say it surprised me in today’s political climate.

    Onion Girl,

    Most states consider that parents have an inalienable right to raise their children–regardless of how those children were conceived.

    And regardless how their parents treat them, at times. A few years ago, Indiana was noted in the national media as having the highest rates of death from child abuse in the U.S. Its social workers place a premium on “keeping family together.”

    Call it “the ownership society” – you poke it or you beget it, you own it.

    It seems that the very worst comments on the CNN article have been deleted, possibly from so many people flagging them. I see a lot of replies to wingnuts whose comments are no longer in evidence.

  13. says

    Fuck you, religion. Fuck you, monotheism. Fuck you, polytheism. Fuck your misogyny. Fuck your fake morals. Fuck your mind control. Fuck your sexuality control. Fuck your crimes against humanity. Fuck your rituals. Fuck your dogma. Fuck your holy crackers. Fuck your magic underwear. Fuck your granting rights to rapists. Fuck your denying rights to homosexuals. Fuck your priests. Fuck your imams. Fuck your angels. Fuck your demons. And fuck your gods.

  14. says

    There’s always a bit of a pendulum shift in the battle between parental rights & best interests of the child (and the mother, in this case), and at the moment, we’re swinging back to parent’s rights.

    I hate hate hate hate the very concept of parental rights. they’re people, not property.
    It’s just like when a child is abused in a family of more than one child, only that child is taken into custody and the others aren’t. As if there was something wrong with that child.

  15. eric says

    When no law prohibits a rapist from exercising these rights, a woman may feel forced to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for the rapist dropping the bid to have access to her child.

    It sounds like she’s talking about rapists who have not yet been found guilty. I can see the problem here; you might be able to get the guy’s rights suspended while a trial is being prepared, but you probably can’t get them officially, legally severed until after the guy is found guilty of committing the crime. Given that a lawyer can string out a case for years, it makes for a terrible bargain: drop the charge in exchange for the guy dropping his rights, or go through a very long trial period, during which his parental rights are based on him being considered innocent until proven guilty.

    It seems to me a decent solution would be to suspend any visitation rights for any parent or custodian while they are going through a felony trial. Or at least until the defense rests.

    Hoewever, IANAL, and probably a much better meta-solution would be to look at what the other 19 states do, how it impacts custody battles etc., and apply the most successful legal solution to the 31 states with no current way to handle this.

  16. onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork says

    And regardless how their parents treat them, at times. A few years ago, Indiana was noted in the national media as having the highest rates of death from child abuse in the U.S. Its social workers place a premium on “keeping family together.”

    Yeah, like I said–that’s coming from the federal level, which is in turn coming from this paradigm shift back over to the parent’s rights side of things. It’s operating under the concept that ‘children grow best in families’, and is, unsurprisingly, not intended to cause the harm that it does. There is sufficient research to indicate that children do not thrive in foster care situations where they may face multiple placements, or where they are placed in group care facilities. Particularly when discussing very young children (the 0-3s being the most applicable), there are concerns about attachment and bonding when children are removed from their families and placed with others. So now the trend is either to family preservation (keeping the child in the home while working with parents who are abusive, sending them to treatment, counseling, etc to try to eliminate the child abuse without removing the child) or kinship care (placing the child with relatives rather than foster parents).

    Again, this is done with good intent–we understand more about the long-term impacts of trauma & disruption on brain development, and the goal is to keep children in stable environments while still trying to keep them safe.

    There is, of course, a mountain of problems with this approach, which is way tl;dr for this. Short version being: while the parental right’s perspective is where things are shifting, there is some underlying research that supports keeping children connected with bio-families–including through visitation. But again, there’s that whole intent & magic thing.

    ∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

    It’s just like when a child is abused in a family of more than one child, only that child is taken into custody and the others aren’t. As if there was something wrong with that child.

    *sigh* And yet again, another example of good intent failing miserably: risk analysis indicates that we should remove the child most at risk, but not damage the family structure more than necessary, by removing ALL the children. But, of course, it rarely works out that way.

    ∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

    It seems to me a decent solution would be to suspend any visitation rights for any parent or custodian while they are going through a felony trial.

    If only. As noted above, the law in most states still considers parents to have an innate right to their children, whether they’ve committed a felony or not. In some states, even in cases where parents have had their parental rights terminated, they still have the right to attend court hearings about their child up until the very day those children are adopted into another family.

  17. Lyanna says

    Gilliel @ 4, the pro-lifers don’t want pregnant rape victims to “choose” to carry to term; they want it to be forced on them by law, and for the victims to be chained to their rapists in this way by law.

    I can hear the pro-life chorus now: “she can just give it up for adoption!”

    “Just,” you know, like it’s simple and painless.

    Yes, she can give her child away to a complete stranger, because that’s such a picnic. She gets to choose between two forms of emotional torture: having her rapist in her life or losing the child she gave birth to (even though she didn’t want it, having born it, she may have a strong attachment).

    And often she can’t even choose because a mother can’t give the child up for adoption in many jurisdictions if the father wants the child. In that case the rapist would just get custody.

  18. says

    Onion-girl
    I suppose it’s still better over here in comie-socialist Europe, but what really buggers me is how they mostly start to act once the damage is done. To me, a family per sé has no value if it actually and really isn’t the best place for a kid (or any other family member) to be. To take the universal, that a kid is best off with their family (and I’m not going to add any shit about bio. Family is the people who love you and who live with you and are there for you) and treat it as if we just have to ensure that they’re with their family is stupid.

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