A recent article released by CNN followed the story of a Nebraska woman, Noemi, who struggles on a weekly basis because she is required by state law to allow the man who raped her to visit her daughter due to court-sanctioned parental rights.
Noemi worked a part-time job at a restaurant in 2011, while also attending high school. After a shift at Noemi’s workplace, a co-worker invited Noemi to his house where he raped and impregnated her. The man was charged with first-degree sexual assault, but later had his conviction lessened to third-degree sexual assault as part of a plea-bargain.
If he had been convicted of first-degree sexual assault, Noemi could have filed to terminate her attacker’s parental rights. However, under Nebraska State Law Noemi’s attacker was granted parental rights to Noemi’s daughter. This led to Noemi’s daughter attending supervised visits with her attacker, and has escalated to Noemi’s daughter attending unsupervised visits for several hours.
In an interview with CNN’s Lisa Ling, Noemi stated that she fears that her daughter will “get hurt or something bad will happen to her… I can’t tell what he will do to my daughter.” The situation is debilitating, according to Noemi. “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… to talk to him about my daughter’s school activities and her health.”
A Nationwide Struggle
Nebraska is not the only state in which these parental right loopholes exist. In fact, states which do not have any laws that protect rape victims from custody battles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, are:
- North Dakota
- New Mexico
Other states allow a presence of “clear and convincing evidence” of rape as a grounds to block parental rights to a rapist.
Fortunately, the struggle to remove the parental rights of rapists has generated political attention, most notably in Maryland. Maryland Senator Jamie Raskin stated to CNN, “A man who conceives in the course of a sexual assault should have no rights to the child and of family contact. Committing a crime does not make you a father.” Raskin has sponsored legislation that would remove parental rights of rapists in the past, and plans to submit new legislation next year with the goal of defeating loopholes that give rapists access to family contact and parental rights.