It's kind of shocking in how many states it's totally legal for a rapist to sue for parental rights.Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault.
It's really rare for a politician to have a slam-dunk piece of legislation with support from all sides of the political spectrum. But Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz thinks she's got one.
Her bill is based on a simple, widely supported concept:
Seems reasonable enough, right? There's no way a rape victim should have to see their attacker over and over.
Plus, it's not like this is all that common, right? I mean, take it from former Rep. Todd Akin. Here's what he had to say about women becoming pregnant as the result of rape:
(I'm leaving out the nonsense about women being able to "shut that whole thing down.")
Wrong! It's actually surprisingly common.
Here's what Shauna Prewitt — who went through a two-year custody battle with her attacker — has to say about that:
And some rapists will use the threat of a custody battle to get the survivor to drop charges against them.
But how is this legal?
Well, in a number of states (highlighted in red), even convicted rapists can sue for custody or visitation rights for children born as the result of their crime.
It's beyond messed up.
Since parental rights are handled at a state level, Wasserman Schultz's bill ("The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act") wouldn't actually change existing laws.
It would just offer incentives to states to revamp their own custody laws.
Prewitt supports Florida's law, which requires that a rapist either be found guilty or plead guilty in order for parental rights to be terminated.
"The court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived as a result of an act of sexual battery. ... It is presumed that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child if the child was conceived as a result of the unlawful sexual battery."
— Florida's 2013 parental rights law
But what's horrifying is that in many other states, someone can be convicted of rape and still fight for custody of the child.