Bill lets rape victims sever parental rights of rapists without conviction

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.

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.