Rape Survivor Forced to Co-Parent With Her Rapist — The Strange Pen

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It’s almost unthinkable: What if you had to co-parent with your rapist? For one California woman, that nightmare scenario is a daily reality.

Raped by an acquaintance on their first date, Charlotte became pregnant and decided to keep the baby. Her name has been changed to protect her child’s privacy.

Unfortunately, the district attorney chose not to prosecute due to lack of evidence. The judge who granted Charlotte a restraining order after the rape recently awarded visitation rights to her rapist.

California law prevents rapists from claiming parental rights, but only after a conviction, which, of course, is rare. Many states require clear and convincing evidence, but not a conviction.

If you were Charlotte, what would you do?

Flee the country, settle down somewhere without extradition? Bit impracticable for most people, especially a single mother with few resources.

For now, Charlotte is filing an appeal and plans to finish her college degree, despite the stunningly low graduation rate for single mothers. With a little luck — something she’s clearly lacked over the last few years—hopefully she’ll make it to graduation.

Pregnancy From Rape Occurs With ‘Significant Frequency’

Anti-abortion activists, and a growing number of mainstream news sites, like The Washington Post and USA Today, say the number of women seeking abortions due to rape is minuscule, as if that somehow invalidates the reality of their trauma.

Approximately 1% of women seek abortion due to rape, according to surveys by the Guttermacher Institute in 1987 and 2004.

That does sound minuscule. But let’s put it in perspective.

Approximately 2.9 million women (2.4%) in the U.S. have experienced pregnancy as a result of rape, according to a 2018 study. That’s more than the population of Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming—combined.

That number, however, may be significantly higher.

Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency, and is closely linked with family and domestic violence, according to an old but often cited 1996 study.

It found a rape-related pregnancy rate of 5%. That’s more than 6 million women, a group almost as large as the population of Maryland.

It’s a lot of women making a lot of very difficult choices. They matter.

No Reproductive Freedom For Victims of Domestic Violence

For anti-abortion activists, every life is precious. Except the mother’s. She loses her freedom at the moment of conception—regardless of the circumstances.

But let’s not forget, many women lose their right to choose well before conception.

About 18 million women in the U.S. have experienced vaginal rape, according to the CDC. Women who were raped by a current or former intimate partner are more likely to experience rape-related pregnancy and reproductive coercion, a somewhat sanitized term for forced pregnancy.

Of women who were raped by an intimate partner:

  • 20% report that their partner tried to get them pregnant when they did not want to, or tried to stop them from using birth control.
  • 23% report that their partner refused to use a condom.

Like their abusive partners, a growing list of states seek to control these, and all women, by denying the right to safe, legal abortion.

The question now is how quickly a conservative Supreme Court will restrict abortion rights. After a surprise ruling from the Supreme Court last month, media consensus is a go slow approach.

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About Penelope Strange