Sexual assault victims would be able to sever the parental rights of their attackers if the assault led to a child, even if the perpetrator was never convicted, under a new proposal from a Democratic senator.
A 2016 state law already denies a person convicted of sexual assault all legal decision-making or parenting time rights to a child born as a result of that sexual assault.
But Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said that isn’t enough. She pointed to national statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network that show less than 1% of rapes and attempted rapes end with a felony conviction for the perpetrator, and less than a third of rape incidents are reported to police.
“Unless the rapist has been convicted of sexual assault, they can get custody, they can have their parental rights, they can get visitation,” Steele said. “These leaves a lot of perpetrators able to be fully in the victims’ lives, and that child’s life. Raping somebody and conceiving a child does not make you a parent.”
To address that, Steele introduced Senate Bill 1355, which allows the parent who was the victim of the sexual assault to ask a court to terminate the parental rights of the parent who committed the assault.
SB1355 doesn’t require a conviction for sexual assault for the alleged perpetrator to lose their parental rights. It states the court must find “clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived as a result of a sexual assault.” Steele said those could be materials like medical records, trauma counseling and testimony of witnesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate almost 3 million women in the U.S. experienced rape-related pregnancies during their lifetime.