When the Act of Rape Continues

Contrary to the opinion of former United States Congressman Todd Aiken and others, women can and do get pregnant from being raped. In fact, an estimated 30,000 women become pregnant from rape every year, and 8,000 to 11,000 of them raise their child. Shauna Prewitt is one such woman.

At the age of 21, while a student at the University of Chicago, Shauna Prewitt was raped. She became one of 30,000 women who became pregnant that year due to rape. She decided to go through with her pregnancy and raise the child, a daughter, on her own. Sadly though, for her, the rapist – her daughter’s father – fought Shauna for his paternal rights.

In most states, the parents of a child conceived through rape have the same rights and responsibilities as any other parents. This means, that a man who becomes a father by raping his victim is entitled to participate in that child’s life just like any other father. He can obtain custody of the child, share custody or visitation of the child, and in many cases, obtain child support from the rapist’s victim: the child’s mother. By doing so, he can maintain control, of not just the child, but of his victim as well. He forces the victim to continue contact with him. She has to see him in court every time he requests enforcement or changes of his paternal rights. She has to see him while exchanging the child during visitations. She has to communicate with him regarding the child’s educational and health issues. She may even have to write checks out to him every month in the form of court-ordered child support. She is never given the chance to heal from her rape, because he is still in the picture to remind her of it.

California is among the minority of states that does not allow a convicted rapist parental rights if a child were born from the act that caused the conviction. Specifically, Section 3030(b) of the Family Code states, “No person shall be granted custody of, or visitation with, a child if the person has been convicted under Section 261 [rape] of the Penal Code and the child was conceived as a result of that violation.” The language of the code section is so absolute that it does not allow any court to make exceptions.

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