News

In 7 AMERICAN states, victims of rape can legally be forced to share custody of their children with their rapist fathers

10 April 2017: the Members of the Maryland House of Delegates convene in the house chamber on the last day of the Maryland legislative session in Annapolis, Md.

(AP)

Shauna Prewitt was a 21-year-old college senior in 2004 when she was raped and impregnated by her attacker. Her decision to keep her child-a girl — took an unexpected turn: her rapist sought custody of their daughter when she was born.

Prewitt is not only.

Women in seven U.S. states can legally be forced to share custody of their children with their rapist fathers — including in Maryland, where an all-male panel failed April 10 to pass legislation that would have allowed victims who have children of rape to block rapists’ parental rights.

“They have the same rights as any other biological father,” said Lisae Jordan, a lawyer and director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual abuse.

“It is outrageous,” Jordan said of the bill not to pass, and notes that the “religious” to have six male legislator handling last-minute negotiations over the bill.

The rape survivor Family Protection Act, which received bipartisan support, passed in both the Maryland House and the state Senate, but a panel of six male legislator had to create a final version of the legislation, because the designs approved by each house had a significant differences. A final invoice does not pass on April 10 because the time ran out on the last day of the Maryland General Assembly an annual three-month session.

The Assembly isn’t set to reconvene until Jan. 10, 2018, but state lawmakers told Fox News to hold an emergency meeting is being considered.

Maryland delegate Kathleen Dumais had proposed the legislation — it was her ninth time, trying to get a bill that changes the law relating to preservation of rights for victims of rape.

“After nine years, Maryland can do better,” Maryland State Sen. Cheryl Kagan told Fox News.

Under current Maryland law, if a rape victim decides to raise her child for adoption, they may be confronted with another obstacle: the permission of her rapist.

“It is crazy to think that if a woman who became pregnant as a result of rape and wanted to continue with her pregnancy and gives her baby up for adoption or any other way would have her rapist’s permission,” said Kagan, a Democrat from Montgomery County.

“That’s crazy,” she said. “This issue is one that resonates so strongly with the average people who just don’t think it makes sense.”

The reality of such laws, according to Jordan and others, make victims of rape who become pregnant are more likely to consider abortion. Amendment of these laws is supported by the people on both sides of the abortion debate. The rape survivor Family Protection Act, for example, garnered the support of both the Maryland Catholic Conference and Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

Delegate David Moon, a Democrat, told Fox News on Friday that the bill failed because the session time-out — not because of a lack of support.

The moon and the two others on the panel — State Sen. William Smith, Jr., a Democrat, and Delegate Brett Wilson, a Republican — were the original co-sponsors of the legislation.

“We were desperately trying to the bill in the final minutes of the session, but the timing obstacles in front of us seemed insurmountable,” Moon said, while acknowledging, “the optics were really terrible to have a male panel for rape and custody cases.”

But Maryland State Sen. Michael Hough, a Republican on the panel, said he thinks the bill is “have tanked on purpose.”

“The democratic leadership of the scheduled conference to meet, at 11 o’clock, an hour before the session to end,” Hough told Fox News. “This bill has been floating around for almost 10 years.”

Hough, who is always in favour of the bill, noted a provision within the he said presents legal obstacles. The legislation calls for the termination of parental rights for the “alleged rapists.”

“If it only dealt with convicted rapists, it would be a cut-and-ready,” he said. “Because it is about alleged rapists, there is a lot of legal challenges.”

The four other members of the panel were not immediately available for comment Friday.

Shauna Prewitt, a Chicago lawyer, wrote an open letter in 2012 to the former USA. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., in response to the comments he made about rape and pregnancy. Akin, a Senate candidate at the time, said pregnancy rarely occurs as a result of what he called “legitimate rape” — a comment roundly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, medical experts and women’s rights groups.

Prewitt explained the circumstances of her rape in an impassioned letter that got national attention.

“My name is Shauna Prewitt. You do not know me, but you must,” she wrote. “I am one of the approximately 25,000 women who every year have a pregnancy as a result of rape, and I would be happy to help you find better ‘to life’ with my story.”

There are seven states without laws preventing rapists from obtaining custody of children conceived without permission. In addition to Maryland, these states include Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

“It is not that there is an act of the law, saying rapists have parental authority,” Jordan explained. “It’s just that this issue is not addressed in their laws,” making it possible for rapists to pursue a shared custody.

In Maryland, but progress has recently been on a number of other state rape laws.

On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law a package of bills that make it easier to prosecute rape cases and protection of victims-including one that has become known as the “no means no” bill. The bill provides an exemption for victims of rape to provide evidence of “physical resistance” to prove that they have been raped.

“As a result of this law, sexual assault survivors will no longer be in the position of choosing between physical resistance and getting hurt, or not resist, and the loss of access to the court,” Dumais said.

Maryland also expanded the definition of sexual abuse to prostitution, and now requires that rape kits be kept for at least 20 years.

“Maryland is a fairly progressive state, and there is much that we do the right things to move things forward, but sometimes those in leadership have a blind stop and not move forward on the road that we have to do,” kagan said.

Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter @Cristina Corbin.

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular