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Few states prevent accused rapists from seeking child custody

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

There are not many places in the country where a woman can safely raise her child if that child was conceived during a sexual assault. In many states, she may have to face her attacker on a regular basis if he decides to seek child custody. Forty-three states have some limited protections under such circumstances, and eight of those states enacted those protections just this year. Texas may have one of the most victim-friendly laws on the books.

In Texas, once a court determines that a child was conceived through a violent act, the parental rights of the attacker may be terminated. However, in 20 other states, a rape conviction is necessary before the severing of custody rights can be considered by a court. This means a mother may end up co-parenting with her rapist.

Requiring a conviction introduces a heartbreaking series of causes and effects. Of the 300,000 sexual assaults that took place over a five year period, only 36 percent of them were reported to authorities. A mere 12 percent of alleged attackers were arrested, and only a few of those arrests led to convictions. The result is that every victim whose rapist was not convicted may be required to share custody and visitation rights with the person who assaulted her, if that assault resulted in pregnancy.

Some states are working to tighten the laws to make it more difficult for suspected rapists to seek child custody or visitation privileges. However, there are still seven states that have no laws to stop a predator from claiming parental rights over his biological child. In such cases, victims would benefit from working closely with an attorney to make sure their rights are protected.

Source: CNN, "Where rapists can gain parental rights", Breeanna Hare & Lisa Rose, Nov. 17, 2016

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