Last month, when the judge denied Ohio rapist and kidnapper Ariel Castro visitation with the daughter he fathered with one of his three victims, most people probably thought, "Well, of course."
In point of fact, it's not nearly that cut and dried -- although, thankfully, in the wake of this highly publicized case, legislatures are finally beginning to close those loopholes that allow rapists to seek visitation and custody rights with respect to children they fathered in the commission of their violent crimes.
A group of bi-partisan lawmakers have joined forces to create model legislation to make terminating a rapist's parental rights easier. The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act would grant financial incentives to states which pass legislation enabling rape survivors to “seek court-ordered termination of the parental rights of her rapist.” These states would receive federal grant funding for programs authorized under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Attorney Shawna Prewitt authored an article in 2010 for the Georgetown Law Journal on the subject of what legal remedies are available to rape survivors against custody-seeking rapists (PDF of the article available here). She knows exactly what she's talking about -- she lived it, having been raped in college and having given birth to a daughter thereafter. She tells her story openly, which is highly commendable of her and speaks to her impressive strength and character, and is probably a key factor in the recent push for legislation to prevent a victim from being forced to share custody with her rapist.
Prewitt theorized that ignorance is behind the phenomenon by which many people have convinced themselves this just isn't a problem -- that some apparently believe rape victims do not get pregnant (they do -- approximately 32,000 times a year in the U.S. alone), or believe that no rape survivor would choose to deliver and raise a child conceived in rape (about 30% of those impregnated via rape make that choice).
Hopefully the RSCCA can help eliminate that ignorance, and remove at least this one burden from the shoulders of rape survivors.
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