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New law protects child custody rights against rapists

It's hard to fathom the pain, terror and trauma a rape victim experiences in the hours and days that follow such an intrusive encounter. This pain can linger for a lifetime, and the pain may be compounded if the mother becomes pregnant from the rape and chooses to keep the child. Many biological fathers of children conceived by rape actually end up seeking parental rights of the child.

Mothers who find themselves in this type of scenario may now feel some extra relief, following the recent enactment of the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act law, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on May 29, 2015, through the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The law is a bipartisan effort, cosponsored by Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Tom Marino of Pennsylvania. The law will help mothers who wish to petition to remove parental rights to fathers of children conceived by rape.

Each year, approximately 25,000 to 30,000 pregnancies occur through rape. Of those, over one third of the women choose to raise the child. This recently enacted law will protect women against their rapist, who are often not convicted in a criminal court, due to the low report rates of rape. This will enable judges to use a "clear and convincing" standard when considering each child custody case, as opposed to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard that is applicable in the criminal court system.

Through this new law states that adapt the clear and convincing standard into existing or new laws will receive a 10 percent increase to their Violence Against Women Act funding, which is used to provide services for women who were victims of violence.

Source: Christian Science Monitor, "With new US law, more funding to protect women who have children after rape", Stacey Teicher Khadaroo, June 4, 2015

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