In the wake of Todd Akin's comments about pregnancy rarely resulting from "legitimate rape," lawyer Shauna Prewitt highlights a reality for women in that situation in a column on CNN: In a majority of states, attackers are afforded the same rights as other fathers.
Prewitt, herself a rape survivor who gave birth to a daughter as a result of her attack, explains that 31 states have no laws that bar rapists from seeking custody or visitation rights. For Prewitt that astounding fact is personal. Her rapist attempted to get custody of her daughter, "but thankfully I got lucky and his visitation rights were terminated," she said, according to a profile of her by The Am Law Daily's Brain Baxter. She added: "I'm not sure I would have made the decision I did had I known I might be tethered to my rapist for the rest of my life."
In a paper published in the The Georgetown Law Journal in 2010 — when the number of states without such laws were even greater — Prewitt argued that the absence "stems from the images and other societal rhetoric that depict the prototypical raped woman as hating her unborn child and as viewing her rape pregnancy as continuing her rape trauma." In her CNN piece, she blames it on "ignorance": Some believe that women don't raise children conceived from rape, others can't fathom a rapist wanting parental rights.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.