Rapists and Custody Rights: A Horrifying Ordeal

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Unpopular opinion: I hesitate to identify myself as a feminist. It stems largely from reasons Crissy has written about, but when I hear about issues like this, it makes me consider becoming a bra-burning hellion.

The issue in question is that pedophilic kidnapper Ariel Castro has asked for custody rights for the child of the woman he raped. Luckily, the Ohio judge rejected the request. “I just think that would be inappropriate,” Judge Michael Russo explained. If the very idea that Castro could ask for custody rights shocks or terrifies you, good.

This seemingly insane circumstance of rapists asking for custody rights happens…and the rights are sometimes granted or used as legal bargaining tools. And as a civilized society, we simply cannot be comfortable with this. Rapists should not have custody rights. It’s 2013, why should we still have to clarify this?

The horror does not just lie in rapists being allowed access to vulnerable children; it also links the rapist to the mother for at least 18 years. Shauna Prewitt was raped as a senior in college, and when faced with the reality that her attacker wanted rights, she was shocked. “…But beyond that I didn’t know how to spend the next 18 or more years of my life tethered to my attacker,” she explained.

The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act was introduced last week. Its intended purpose is to strip rapists of custody rights. Critics of the bill say that judges already have the power to prevent an unfit parent from gaining custody rights – as in Castro’s case. While I’m sure there are good intentions behind this, I tend to believe legislation is often enacted too hastily and given a sunshine and rainbow name to garner public support – and I doubt this is an exception.

Perhaps we should focus instead of the conviction rate of rapists and how often they are reported. According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, approximately 54% of rapes in the last five years were not reported. Speculation in this case is dangerous, but it would be safe to assume that some women are deterred from reporting because of victim blaming. There are a lot of factors that could be explored in this topic, but the factors are worth exploring. With higher conviction rates for rape, judges would find it easy to rule that attackers are unfit parents and bar them from custody rights.

As libertarians, we have an obligation to ensure people are not harmed. The non-aggression principle is a core value of libertarianism. Because of this, I believe we should explore every channel that could help would-be victims, and exploring the reasons behind rape reporting is a worthy cause. With a higher conviction/reporting rate, hopefully rapists would be robbed of bargaining rights and we wouldn’t be bogged down with more unnecessary, should-be-common-sense legislation.

Finally, I find it ironic that rapists believe they have custody rights.  Perhaps they should consider rights before they forcefully attack, violate, and harm another person.