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Changes in custody law could affect rape victims and offenders

When pieces of legislation are composed and proposed for passing on the state and/or federal level, they typically address a specific type of issue or victim. And while the details surrounding the inception of specific laws may vary, the underlying theme is always to protect victims and provide for the needs of citizens. Unfor tunately, though, there may be instances where some rights are infringed upon in an effort to protect others. If passed, a new Illinois bill might have the potential to help and hurt an already sensitive situation for many people.

Thousands of babies are born each year to victims of rape. And while the women in these cases may never want to associate with their alleged attackers again, fathers have the right to have a relationship with their kids. As a result, both parties can be forced into particularly stressful and damaging child custody disputes.

Illinois legislation currently states that a man that is convicted of rape can have his parental rights restricted by the mother of his child in some instances. Though, the woman can only request such custodial limitations if her alleged rapist is found guilty of the crime.

However, the proposed bill, which is slated to be considered by the state Senate, would allow a rape victim to restrict the rights of her baby's father if she can provide convincing proof he sexually assaulted her.

At this point, it is not clear what would constitute convincing proof in these types of cases. It is also unknown if and when fathers could be reconsidered to regain their custody rights over their kids. Of course, victims of sexual assault must be protected under the law. But that is equally true for men and fathers.

Source: CBS Chicago, "Bill Would Help Women Avoid Custody Battles with Alleged Rapists," Bernie Tafoya, April 11, 2013

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