For a woman who gives birth to a child conceived out of rape, the idea of having to give child custody or visitation rights to her attacker might seem unthinkable. But in some parts of the U.S., that’s exactly what can happen.
The laws surrounding paternal rights for rapists vary widely across the United States. In seven states, there are no laws in place addressing this issue. On the other end of the spectrum, seven more states have passed laws that allow a rape victim to unequivocally block her alleged assailant from all parental rights. That leaves the rest of the country somewhere in the middle.
North Carolina is among these “middle-ground” states. In 2012 the state passed legislation that prevents anyone convicted of rape from gaining parental rights to a child conceived from the crime. While this law may seem like a positive step for rape victims, it is not without its critics.
According to the law, a rapist’s parental rights can only be expunged if he is convicted. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only around one-third of rapes between 2005 and 2010 were reported to the police, and fewer than that led to arrests. After that, if the rape is prosecuted and if the burden of proof is sufficient to lead to conviction, then the victim can finally be guaranteed sole parental rights.
What do you think? Should the “innocent until proven guilty” approach apply to the parental rights of alleged rapists, or should North Carolina adopt stricter laws?