For the estimated 25,000 to 32,000 survivors who become pregnant from rape each year, the nationwide spread of laws that stop rapists seeking custody is a welcome shift. Recent high profile cases — such as that of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro, who held three women prisoner in his home for years and fathered a child with one victim — have also helped elicit more awareness and push laws through state legislatures. But it's still not enough, advocates say.
'It can't get anymore intimidating than somebody trying to take or harm or trying to do something to your child.'
A few months ago, in a family court outside Boston, Turner won her case to terminate all her rapist's child visitation rights. But she still faces an appeal questioning whether the court should have taken up the decision on the issue in the first place. The case raises questions of whether the justice system, and judges acting at their discretion, are equipped with enough understanding of the relevant psychological factors to make such life-changing decisions for those involved in rape custody cases. The primary goal should be to prevent further harm to the rape survivor and child in these circumstances. But that is not always the outcome.
'By requiring a criminal rape conviction, you're actually making a more stringent standard to be applied to rape victims and their children, which is so unfair.'