Rapists Get Child Custody?

I would learn firsthand that in the vast majority of states — 31 — men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy.

That’s Shauna Prewitt. In her final year of college she became the victim of a horrifying rape. Nine months later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She chose to keep and raise her because her daughter was,

so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground.

I was wrong again.

Nearly 1/3 of women who conceive by rape choose to keep and raise their children. Like Shauna, they probably don’t realize that their rapist will be given visitation rights and end up in their lives forever.

As if the violent rape weren’t bad enough now she must be constantly reminded of it as she is forced into contact with the child’s father.

That may be just why the men seek custody. Rapists enjoy power and intimidation and can now create dread and fear through a lifetime. Or, as Shauna sees it:

It is not surprising that a man who cruelly degrades a woman would also seek to torture her in an even more agonizing way, by seeking access to her child.

A rape victim may, alternatively, sacrifice her need for justice by dropping the charges in a bargain to gain sole custody of the child.

Apparently, the court’s concern is that the man may not have raped the woman. But in this “he said/she said,” why does he win? Especially since rapists tend to have a controlling nature and a violent streak, risking child endangerment.

When I look at which causes greater harm, a man denied custody or a woman forever tormented and a child at risk for abuse, I wonder why the man’s rights trump the woman’s and the child’s.

Probably because every society is ruled from the perspective of the powerful. In this case, men. Those making the law are looking at things more from the man’s perspective than from the perspective of where the greater harm occurs.

It’s all reminiscent of a newly proposed bill “aimed at throwing rape victims in jail if they refuse to honor their rapist’s right to control their body by carrying his child,” as Amanda Marcotte put it.

That’s right. Rep. Cathrynn Brown of New Mexico wants a bill banning abortion for rape victims because it “tampers with evidence.” Sounds phony since pregnancies may occur without rape and rape can occur without pregnancy. Wonder how much money one of her constituents contributed to get that bill proposed?

At best this ban sees through the eyes of the powerful instead of the powerless.

At worst it is misogynistic, an excuse to hurt a woman even more than she has already been harmed by rape.

When it comes to justice sometimes it’s a world turned upside-down.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on January 30, 2013, in feminism, gender, psychology, rape and sexual assault, reproductive rights, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Oh, good Lord. Stop the planet, I want to get off it.

  2. This is every kind of fucked up – and another example of how “justice” is nothing of the kind – only a political tool. I can’t believe this stuff happens, I don’t even know what else to say.

  3. Thanks. I’m horrified but I needed to know this. Thanks for keeping me informed.

  4. When I first read the title of this blog, Rapists Get Child Custody?, I immediately had chills running down my back and then I actually read the post and I was speechless. I am not to sure about our justice system sometimes. I thought we are suppose to be protecting our victims from such cruel acts of violence, instead we put them directly in harms way. I just don’t see how it is right to give a rapist the right to see their child. In my eyes I feel that is putting the child and mother in active danger. If the father was able to commit a violent act toward the mother of the child in the first place. What makes any one think that he wont commit a violent act towards the child. I think that it is a huge mistake and I feel sorry for the victim for having to deal with the grief of the custody battle,along with dealing with the violent act that was done to her. I just wish our justice system would actually do what it is there for and that is to serve justice to those who had wrong done to them.

  5. Stephanie Orellana

    This is truly horrifying to me that in more than half of our country we are allowing these rapist to torture these woman in this way. Why should a man who abused sexually and forever mentally have the ability to trap her and still hurt her by gaining access to her child. This makes no sense to me and I hope we look to change these ridiculous ways. Also then banning abortion. Seriously?? So not only can men do as they please without suffering the double bind but they also get to decide what we as woman are allowed to do with our bodies. Because that makes lots of sense. Women deserve the RIGHT to do as they see fit with their own bodies. “Tampering with evidence” for choosing to abort having a child made from rape and to never disconnect from the rapist since he as a so called father has visitation rights. This devasting! This is the way of the world tho, not just America. In India it was said that a woman who was raped could be considered by her rapist for marriage. Then the rapist would no longer be a rapist and the woman wouldn’t be looked upon with disgrace. So now let’s make her suffer for the rest of her life with a man who she doesn’t even love. We as woman must empower one another and raise up In these times. Woman should decide for themselves what happens to the body of a WOMAN, not men.

  6. Alexandra Holmes

    I was immediately drawn to this blog after reading the title, “Rapist gets child custody?” I would have never imagined that a rapist could have custody and visitation rights after a child was conceived by rape. Before reading this blog, I thought being a convicted sex offender would automatically make someone ineligible of obtaining custody of a child. I am shocked to learn that there are very few laws that protect these victims of rape and their children from these rapists. I believe that this is wrong to the mother and especially the child. I can’t imagine how traumatizing it is for a rape victim to have to see her attacker and allow him into their child’s life. I also wonder what kind of effect this will have on the child if they were to ever find out the way in which they were conceived. After listening to Shaunas speech, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly sad and angry for her unfortunate situation. She made an admirable decision to keep her child, yet now she has to have her rapist involved in her life forever. I certainly hope the laws change in the near future which will prevent rapists from gaining custody to the children they father through rape.

  7. Obviously it was the title “Rapists get child custody?” that grabbed my attention and made me want to see how this is even possible. It disgusts me to think that people in our country can be so selective and small minded enough to let men who abuse women take control and abuse them their whole lives with laws like this. Men should not be treated special with laws like this, and I think that most people would agree that men who rape women should go to jail and never get to see that woman or the child she may bear because of him. If anything, I believe that women should get the benefits here and get every penny she could out of the rapist for child support since he intruded on her life like that, and that man should be in prison for a long time if not life. Our system is so messed up and unfair toward minorities and it needs to be fixed so that everyone is treated equal in the judicial system.

  8. Shauna Prewitt did the right thing for her child. I believe that just because her daughter was conceived in that way doesn’t mean it has to be a burden on them. When a woman becomes pregnant they feel a feeling inside them that gives them more love then they ever had. It takes a lot to give a child up and I personally think that if someone gets pregnant in any way they should be there for them because that is their own blood it belongs to them. On the second note I totally disagree that a rapist should have the right to have rights of the child. There is no way that that should be legal. If someone rapes someone why should they have the obligation to look after a child that they can easily do the same to? People in this day and age are sick minded freaks.

  9. I am so disgusted with this,how can a man who has ruined and traumatized a woman’s life forever be given the right to custody of a child he forcingly made the women bear.Rapists are wrong!!! they needed to be put into jail and never be let out. How can they be allowed around the woman they were a threat to ,the laws and they systems are so out of control and don’t even help anyone at all.The women that were raped not only have to face with that lasting horrible memory,but also continue to be in contact with the man who caused them that hurt and pain in the first place. How is this justice? How is the rapist learning he did something wrong when he still ends up winning by continuing to cause permanent damage to the womens life. I am so disgusted

  10. I cannot believe I am reading this. Just can’t.

  11. This is a shame. I do not see the reason to further allow this rapist around his victim or her daughter for that matter. I do not see any potential for her to grow from this trauma with this dude constantly around and her child of all people. The court should really consider the circumstances of these visitation rights. No man should have the right to continue to torment his victims their whole lives. It should not even be okay to inform him about his victims conditions after the damage he did. And I don’t know how they expect the daughter to react when she grows older and the reality of her upbringing is brought to light. that idea is just unrespectable.

  12. Wow, I am in shock. Being a victim of rape is already one of the most terrible things that could happen to someone, but to be told that the rapist would be given visitation rights to “their” child is exceptionally sickening. What is the benefit of allowing a registered sex offender see their child from the person they raped? Rep. Cathrynn Brown, how dare you say that!! How does it tamper with evidence if you can take a rape kit? How dare you say that. Don’t you sympathize with these women, being that you are a woman? You obviously are a cruel hearted person who needs to be more compassionate towards others.

  13. Rapists should not have any rights to anything. I think most men will agree with me.

    There is something seriously wrong with a lot of lawmakers.

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