Many women are left with no choice but to face the men who raped them because they became pregnant and decided not to terminate those pregnancies. Minnesota families might be surprised to learn that the laws of their state and several others still allow rapists to exercise parental rights regarding the children who are born from their criminal acts. A father’s right to have an active role in the life of his child is part of the law just like the rights of the mother. This means that many rape victims who carry their pregnancies to term often have to communicate with their attackers on matters regarding their children. Many of them are forced into shared custody with the rapists as well.
Although rape victims who become pregnant can terminate the pregnancies, they might have moral, religious or other ideals that prevent them from doing so. The laws of about 15 states offer no legal protections for these rape victims against being tied to the men who attacked them, which often leads to years of harassment, intimidation and manipulation as well as prevents the victims from recovering.
Despite nearly 35 states giving judges the power to terminate a rapist’s parental rights, about 26 of them demand that the rapist is convicted first. However, less than 20 percent of rape cases are reported, and just 5 percent of the assailants are convicted. As a step in the right direction, Congress passed the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act in May, and it pledges funds to states that sign laws to deny parental rights to rapists if the women show that they were raped. Only clear and convincing evidence is required, which is less difficult than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in criminal proceedings.
Mothers who are facing custody matters with men who they believe are unfit to have a role in their children’s lives could ask family law attorneys for help demonstrating this to the court. In many of these situations, an attorney can help demonstrate that granting even limited parenting time to a father would not be in the best interests of the child.