Every year, 25,000 to 32,000 women become pregnant as a result of rape. About one-third of them decide to give birth and raise the baby. However, many rapists use the babies as a tool in harassing the mothers or threatening to seek custody of the baby unless the woman drops the criminal charges. The Christian Science Monitor reports that now, mothers can “petition for the termination of parental rights based on clear and convincing evidence that a child was conceived through rape.”
On May 29, President Obama signed the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act into law as part of the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. Shauna Prewitt, a Chicago Attorney, was raped a decade ago and became an advocate for better state laws after enduring a two-year custody battle with the rapist. Right now, about 36 states have laws in place to address this issue, but many of them require a criminal conviction of the rapist. This leaves little protection for the vast majority of victims, since very few rapes lead to prosecution.