Writing Wrongs

I hope my theme this month of Pet Peeves hasn’t made you go running away from my blog screaming.  But today’s peeve really boils my blood.

Did you know that in the majority of the U.S., rapists have parental rights for the children conceived through their crime?

Yes, it’s true.  In 31 states, a man who impregnates a woman through rape can successfully sue her for child visitation rights as well as custody!

So, let’s break this down.  A woman is brutally and violently raped, maybe by someone she knows, or perhaps by a complete stranger.  She goes through the scrutiny of trial and faces a good chance that the scumbag that violated her may get off on a technicality.  Or he is sentenced to prison but released shortly thereafter due to overcrowding.  Or there’s also a good chance that the state attorney opted not to take her case, and the rapist was never tried.

Meanwhile, a few weeks after her attack, the woman realizes she’s pregnant.  Perhaps she’s married and now doesn’t know if the child is her husband’s or not.  Perhaps she was not even sexually active at the time, and she knows for certain that the child is definitely a product of her rape.

The woman is faced with some choices.  Does she terminate the pregnancy?  Maybe she doesn’t believe in abortion and couldn’t live with herself if she did that.  Does she give the child up for adoption?  We don’t know her situation.  Again, if she was married, she might not know for certain who fathered the child.  Or she might have fertility issues, and it was a miracle that she became pregnant at all.  Or she just might not be able to go through with giving her own child up after carrying it for nine months.

At any rate, the brave woman who decided to keep and love her child, despite the wickedness of its conception, is home raising her child and minding her own business when all of a sudden, a process server knocks on her door and serves her with a paternity lawsuit.  And what does this lawsuit say?  Yes, while it might address the child’s right to know its father, you better believe that it also includes such language that says that the father has parental rights.

If the woman lives in one of the 31 states that preserve the legal rights of rapists, she can then look forward to sharing holidays with a violent sexual predator.  She can see her attacker every other weekend for visitation, and she can sit next to him for school meetings.  She can now worry for her own safety as well as the safety of her child (perhaps her daughter), as well as if she has any other children.  If she was married at the time of her attack and her husband was a noble enough man to selflessly raise the child as his own, now he will also have to deal with protecting the parental rights of his wife’s rapist.

I could probably literally write a book about how much this particular law gets me riled, but I’ll stop here.  I know my pet peeves to date have gotten rather intense, so next week, I’ll try to get back to my normal fun-loving self and add some levity to my theme of the month.

So, does this law peeve you as much as it does me?  Is there a law that is either in place and shouldn’t be, or needs to be made or changed, that addresses one of your pet peeves?

72 thoughts on “Writing Wrongs

  1. Sounds like a job for Clive’s ‘Danny Sparko’ to me – wouldn’t have to worry about said rapists after Sparko had finished with them! On a more serious note I always thought the US Justice system a little too harsh – I may now have to reconsider my obviously ill-informed view.

    • I’ve got a few jobs lined up for Danny Sparko! LOL! I think some of our laws may be harsh yet some are WAY to lenient. I’ll be talking about some more this month and you can decide. 🙂

      • Look forward to it – I always had the US marked down as a place of the electric chair and life imprisonment – seems I am so wrong.

      • Sometimes that’s true. It’s more like, if you steal food to feed your family, they lock you away for 50 years so you can never provide for them. But if you kill your family because you can’t afford to feed them, they feel bad for you and you get out after 3 years.

      • Fascinating stuff – can’t wait for the next post. It all sounds neo-Victorian to me. Did you know back in those days one of my lot – i.e. a Steeden – received the death sentence at 18 years for stealing a watch from a posh house in Marylebone, London. The sentence was never carried out as they shipped him off to then new lands of Australia. A little harsh I thought.

      • Yikes! Yeah, that’s a little harsh… BOTH sentences – just for stealing a watch! Unless perhaps it was still connected to the governor’s arm.

      • Ah. Well, then, it was entirely too harsh. I kind of thought Australia was just reserved for the murderers and such back in the day. Or maybe tax evaders, too.

  2. That’s crazy and disgusting. 😦 there are a lot of these random and strange rules that allow perpetrators of violence to continue to hurt their victims. It’s scary and it’s important to educate people on these issues so that we can fix these wrongs.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with how crazy and disgusting this is. A thought though on how it got there (I don’t know, merely thinking in print). I wonder if someplace back a few decades ago someone had the bright idea that rapist should support their kid(s) from their rapes, and thus they collected responsibility and like all swords this one has two edges. With responsibilities go rights. And so in giving these animals responsibility we inadvertently gave them rights as well. A bad idea but as so often our legislators apparently didn’t think it through.

    Now, that leaves the question of how do we fix it?

  4. Hi Rachel – This law was new to me until recently when my daughter told me about it. She’s earning her Masters degree in forensic psychology and read all about this in some of her coursework. It is unconscionable. I read the comment above by NEO and agree with that logic—as usual, our legislators didn’t study the whole picture or the ramifications of earlier decisions.

    Thanks for following my blog! I appreciate it, and am glad I followed you back here.

  5. Absolutely wrong to do that to someone. The rapist should not only have no rights, but should receive life in solitary without internet! (Did you know that men sentenced due to child predator cases are still allowed television and internet time for the most part…so they can once a week get on that computer and figure out a way to find more children to talk to?)

    Similarly, though not as bad as I suppose, in the Midwest where I live I was told that because my scum of an ex-fiance begged out of being on my daughter’s birth certificate and I agreed (I didn’t want him around her after I found out about his mistresses and his family…well let’s just say they were really good at lying and hiding things from me)…anyway, I couldn’t get the state insurance or help and they’ve lessened my daughter’s health insurance from 18 years to 5. But if I want to go after child support from the lying/cheating/bi-polar/schizo guy then we both get full health insurance for 18 years…and he gets visitation rights even though he doesn’t want her.

    • I agree with you, solitary OR in general population where someone can rape them.

      What state are you in? Here in Florida we don’t have a choice not to allow the dad to be involved or to refuse child support, even if the mom and dad both agree because “the child has the right to support” and “the child has the right to both parents.” It sounds like your ex is similar to my daughter’s father. I’m so sorry!

      • I’m in Oklahoma and was living in Texas (my home state) at the time. I’m pretty sure that if Texas ever becomes its own country, Oklahoma will be a part of it! The laws are almost identical.

      • I’ve heard that before. It’s always a little funny to me how the U.S. has so many different laws in each of the different states. I don’t think other countries are as varied as we are.

  6. How in the world can that be legal in 31 states?! There are definitely some antiquated and downright horrible laws still on the books. As for my pet peeve–it’s people who text and drive. I am so sick of seeing people on their cell phones texting and swerving in and out of their lanes, not paying attention, almost causing accidents. They drive as though they’re drunk. It’s terrifying. And should be absolutely illegal with huge repercussions if someone’s caught doing it.

  7. Well, I would hope that the perpetrator would be incarcerated until well after the child’s youth, thus making the whole issue moot, Rachel.

    Nevertheless, the law should be rewritten, en toto.

  8. I wish I could say this was new information to me. I was working in Pediatricsas a young nurse in the state of Kansas at the time, when I was confronted by an individual claiming to be a particular child’s parent. The child was an inpatient at the age of 2, believed to be a victim of physical and sexual abuse. The father and siblings were named as suspects. This was heartbreaking. He wanted to see this child. I lied and said she was off the floor for testing and would not be back for 5 hours. Of course he read that I was not being honest and came with a lawyer. I blocked the door and told him that while I was the person in charge of these kids, he would not be visiting her- not on my watch. I also made it clear that any attempt tpp physically remove me, touch me in any way and I would prosecute with the weight of the hospital’s legal system. Of course that was also not a whole truth. The hospital would have in all likelihood not got involved. These weren’t yet progressive days for women there. They left and returned with an officer of the county court who had some sort of legal papers indicating he had the court’s permission to visit with his child. That being said, I had no other recourse but to cooperate. I went in the room though and called the supervisor (who was on her way- fearing I would cause still more trouble in her view.) She agreed my contention was reasonable and it would be supervised by staff as the papers had not indicated otherwise. Today we may not have gotten away with that. But back then I could tell this officer that since there was nothing indicating he did not require supervision since the child was here for observation, this visit would absolutely be observed. The sad thing was a brother and later the father had admitted to sexually abusing her. She was so conflicted. A baby who loves this person that she ought to be able to trust but couldn’t trust him. So tragic. It shook me t my foundation. My child was that age as well. I felt rather certain I would be in jail had it been my child been abused in this way. The mother went through so much in way of interrogation. Un fact she did not have visitation with her daughter for the first 36 hours as she was being detained for questioning. Heartbreaking.
    Our laws ought to protect our children. If somewhere along the line good people face hardships as a result. then it is sad- but I’d sooner see the child protected at all costs. It’s horrific that we have such dilemmas in our country. It’s terrible that we have such crimes, such hatefully sick people who would harm a person in these ways. This is the type of thing that no state should have the right to establish relationships and bonds for the offenders. This is a sad injustice.

    • That is so sad! Bless you for trying to help. I don’t know how you could have stood to work in a system that threw victims under the bus like that. Even when I was a kid, I remember that people were allowed to abuse their children because they were thought of as property rather than people.

  9. This law should not be possible–two wrongs do not make a right. So man commits a crime and can still harass the woman by being in her life by way of the child? This has to change.

  10. Unbelievable! It’s great you’re speaking out about it. maybe you could start a petition to help change the law. Is it right you need 100,000 signature for it to be looked at?

  11. I did know about this (although not the number of states). I suspect, as someone above said, that the law is based on economics, so that the child does not become a burden on the state. (Colonial bastardy laws were like this.) There a lots of old laws on the books that should be eliminated. Nothing happens until you try–so go for it! I’ll sign your petition!
    In many countries, women are forced to marry their rapists:

  12. Frankly, that is sick. Mr. Obama, please get off your healthcare hobby horse and see about getting this law changed. (I’ll sign the petition too!)
    I’m sorry. My personal pet peeve is the stupidity of the way they’re executing new healthcare plans in this country. I’m not against health care per se, it can be, quite literally, a life saver, but there are better ways of handling it, and perhaps better ways of spending our tax money. I’m just a little past the age of minority, and already sick and tired of paperwork, forms, and to an extent, most bureaucracy. To see my parents suffer through a website which doesn’t process the requests, wants them to drop other health insurance/health care, etc, and completely flips the plan upside down and makes us set up ANOTHER doctor’s appointment for immunizations when we MIGHT have just gotten them all done at once is nothing short of psychological torture. Nearly as bad is… *shudder* Financial Aid…

    • Oh, if I wrote about how much the Obamacare thing annoys me, I’d end up writing a book! And I hate that it’s different from state to state. In my state, there is no state aid for people that can’t afford to pay for the mandatory care. I looked at and played with all the numbers and if I made only $12,000 a year, they still wanted to charge me close to $10,000 a year in mandatory healthcare! That would leave $2,000 a year to live on! THAT’S INSANE!

  13. Such an incredibly stupid law!!…by his very actions the rapist does not deserve ever to have a child…and how is this law meant to protect the woman and kid. Shaking my head, honestly.


  14. This is incredible…I think that the rapist should lose all his paternal rights. However, I think that when the child reaches adulthood and if he/she knows about his/her father then the child should have the right to choose whether to know the father. But it still makes for a very, very complicated , sad and messy situation.

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