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Rape victims can be targeted again in child custody disputes

Even though Illinois state and federal laws set guidelines that apply to the majority of family law issues to arise in court, such policies fail to address every possible scenario. In fact, many attorneys and victim rights activists acknowledge that the law can do much more to adequately meet the needs of rape victims that are brought into child custody disputes by their rapists. That’s why a group of lawmakers is hoping to address the problem with new legislation.

One legal expert and rape victim who contributed to the proposed bill notes that close to one third of women impregnated in a rape crime decide to raise the child. That means that these women may be forced to deal with serious custody issues if and when their rapist decides to secure their parental rights. 

In the event a mother finds herself in the midst of such a custody dispute, her custodial rights may only be secured on some level in 19 states. The majority of the country does not protect rape victims from being coerced into dropping criminal charges at the risk of facing custody issues over their child.

That may soon change if the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act is written into law. The proposed legislation would help to uphold the custodial rights of rape victims by giving states the resources necessary to enforce and implement relevant policies.

In addition to using grant money to fund state sexual-assault police and prosecution efforts, the new law would also allow rape survivors to take legal action to deny custodial rights to rapists without first obtaining a criminal conviction. This alone could protect victims from potentially long and hurtful court proceedings.

Source:, “Lawmakers Propose Bill To Prevent Rapists From Claiming Child Custody,” Kumar Ramanathan, July 31, 2013

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