We Know Rape Can Result In Pregnancy, But What About A Custody Battle?

by Kaitlin Cole

There’s been a lot of talk about rape and resulting pregnancies recently, thanks to Todd Akin’s awful and dangerously inaccurate remarks.  Shauna Prewitt, the Chicago lawyer who had her story of rape and subsequent pregnancy published by CNN, discovered some pretty terrifying news while researching.  According to RH Reality Check, 32,000 women become pregnant from rape each year.  32,000 women whose bodies were unable to “shut that whole thing down.”  RH Reality Check estimates that half of those women carry their pregnancies to term.  Unfortunately for some of them, the rape and resulting pregnancy may not be the end of their interaction with their rapist.  In 31 states, men who have fathered children through rape have the same custody and visitation rights as any other father (Prewitt herself had to visit court over a custody case with her attacker.) Unfortunately, this can become a way for the rapist to exert further control over his victim.  If a woman were trying to press charges against her attacker, while also having to deal with a child custody case from the rapist himself, it could become a harrowing bargain: Maybe if she drops the case against him, he’ll drop his custody case.  It puts the woman in a very difficult place, as she fights for justice and closure while simultaneously trying to protect and keep her child.  States that are not included in the 31 have thankfully ruled against rapists in various court cases, denying them any parental rights.  It’s pretty scary to think that rapists in 31 states can have these rights, in addition to being less likely to face criminal charges due to them.  Prewitt sums it up well: “Either we will fight ignorance and take steps to legislate for raped women based upon reason and facts, or we will be led by ignorance and continue to make bad laws. Or fail to make good ones.”

Image via sxc.hu

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