In the United States, there are many state laws that force mothers to share their children who were conceived as a result of being raped.
One such case is 18-year-old Noemi, whose home state of Nebraska has a law that forces her to let the rapist who fathered her baby daughter share custody with the child, reports CNN.
“I can’t tell what he will do to my daughter,” Noemi said. She is afraid that her baby will “get hurt or something bad will happen to her” while in custody of the man who attacked her.
“Now, I have to text my rapist or email my rapist,” she said. “To leave my daughter with someone I didn’t trust. I’m forced to parent with him and to see him on a weekly basis …”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are an estimated 17,000 to 32,000 rape-related pregnancies in the United States each year.
Noemi’s rapist was charged with first-degree sexual assault, but successfully pleaded to a lesser charge of third-degree sexual assault.
Had he been convicted of sexual assault in the first degree, he would have no parental rights under Nebraska law. But since he was convicted of third-degree assault instead, he was granted parental rights.
As a result, he won unsupervised visits with his daughter for a few hours every other weekend, along with two Tuesdays each month. And there’s nothing Noemi can do about it.
This legal situation also benefits the rapist in other ways, notes Salon, citing a real-life example. In that case, the rapist bribed the mother by dropping his demand for visitation rights on the condition that she agree to waive his obligation to pay child support.
There are mothers in Noemi’s situation all over the country, because fewer than half the states have laws that allow the termination of parental rights to rapists without a conviction.
According to experts, most of these state laws were written at a time when there was a strong social bias against unmarried mothers and the laws, therefore, did not grant parental rights for children who were born to unmarried women.
As for Noemi, she says is determined to fight. She plans to take her case to the Nebraska legislature, which is considering changing the law so that it protects her and the thousands of other mothers who are currently compelled to share their children with rapists.
Sources: CNN, Salon / Photo credit: CNN