All-Male Panel Fails To End Law Forcing Women To Share Custody With Their Rapists

by Jerriann Sullivan

Law forces women to negotiate custody with their attacker

Five male politicians failed women they’re supposed to be protecting when they didn’t end a horrific law that forces survivors of rape to share child custody with their attackers.

The five Maryland legislators buried the bill that would have made one part of a rape victim’s life a bit less stressful. Currently, rape survivors have to work with their attackers when determining child custody and adoption issues. The state is one of seven that doesn’t let women terminate the parental rights of the person who sexually assaulted them, according to reproductive rights organization NARAL. We can’t even imagine the hellscape that this policy creates for women who have conceived a child from a sexual assault.

“For those who choose to carry to term, a woman who becomes pregnant through rape runs the risk that the rapist will assert his parental rights,” NARAL’s Maryland branch wrote. “If she chooses to raise the child herself, it could mean her rapist inserting himself into her life for the next 18 years. The perpetrator may also hinder efforts to place the child up for adoption. In some extreme cases, rapists have only agreed to allow an adoption to go forward if the victim promised not to testify against him at trial.” Oh, cool, so we’re letting rapists further terrorize their victims from behind bars. Good job, politicians, way to go for failing to protect your most vulnerable citizens.

To help survivors, Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais introduced legislation that would have fixed this nightmare issue and allowed women to eliminate their rapist’s parental rights, The Daily Beast reported. Dumais’ bill passed Maryland’s House and Senate, but a five-person negotiating group needed to meet and finalize the text of the legislation. Instead of doing that the five men just ignored it and ran out the legislative session’s clock.

“Del. Kathleen Dumais, who has worked on the issue for a decade, appeared close to tears as she walked out of the meeting believing a deal couldn’t be reached,” The Baltimore Sun reported.

Maryland politicians won’t have to revisit the proposed bill until the 2018 session begins next January. Women who were raped and become pregnant don’t have the luxury of ignoring this crisis for 10 months.

The five men who failed the women of Maryland were David Moon, Brett Wilson, Joseph Vallario Jr., William Smith, Robert Zirkin, and Michael Hough.