If the prospect of a woman being forced to deliver a baby that was conceived through rape isn’t horrifying enough, here’s another aspect that may be even more appalling — what happens when the rapist demands custody and visitation for that child after it is born? Yes, that actually happens.
Nineteen states have laws restricting the parental rights of men who father through rape. But everywhere else, those men may technically seek parental rights, including visitation and custody.
Without statutes stripping rapists of parental rights, “courts don’t feel they have the power to terminate,” Prewitt explains. “They’re left to delicately balance this presumption that both parents should be part of a child’s life.”
In some cases, says Prewitt, men can use this legal loophole as a kind of blackmail.
“We see a lot of cases where fathers through rape have sought custody rights, but I don’t know that they want to have a sincere involvement in the child’s life. They will say, if you don’t pursue criminal charges, I won’t seek custody.” Given the choice between definitely maintaining sole custody of their child or possibly seeing their attacker convicted, most women will choose the kid.
It doesn’t happen often, but even once is too many times. Forcing a woman into such a position is unimaginably cruel.