I often hear and read that moms who conceive from sexual assault aren’t believed that they were raped when they decide to keep their baby. They are called names and are expected to share custody with the rapist. These facts are just the tip of the iceberg. Due to this unjust treatment, I am compelled to share this report. This paper was written for a sociology class. I could add so much more to the Biblical Principles section and the solutions, but I decided to leave it as is. My hope is that my readership will contribute helpful comments to this and share this blog to bring education to this issue.
Part 1: Social Problem Described
As students of sociology, we have learned that all our small group interaction falls into microsociology, which will affect our sociological economy as a whole community. For this reason, it is important that as a society, we acknowledge that we are failing children born from sexual assault in many facets. This report will cover only one specific problem and a possible solution for the specific problem labeled. By allowing the alleged rapist father to have any parental right to the child conceived from his deviant and possible criminal (depending on conviction) behavior of sexual assault of the child’s mother, the system that should be protecting the child, is actually allowing the cycle of abuse and deviance to be passed to the offspring. For the purpose of this article, I will expound on four specific cycles of abuse and deviance and how presenting clear and convincing evidence should be enough to remove parental rights in cases of sexual assault paternity.
Cycles of abuse depend on how the pregnancy occurred. What type of sexual violence did the woman suffer that resulted in a child being born? The four types of sexual assault that I will expound on are incest/rape, intimate partner sexual assault, marital rape and sex-trafficking. Objectively, a woman who gets pregnant from these assaults do have the options of birthing and keeping the child, birthing and giving the child up for adoption, or obtaining an abortion. The presumption made for this article is that the mother is choosing to birth and keep the child. For each type of deviance, I will give a scenario that has been experience by a survivor child.
The deviance of incest is a criminal offence in the United States when it is prosecuted. Unfortunately, the perpetrator isn’t always caught and brought to justice. In cases like this, a girl gets caught in the cycle of incest/rape, can get pregnant and have a child. Once such case happened in 1977-1978. A young girl suffered incest/rape at the hands of her father. She got pregnant and had a baby girl. The social service system fails to help her, leaving her and her baby in the hands of her deviant/criminal father. The baby girl grew and was also raped by her biological rapist father. In this way, incest is perpetrated to the next generation. This first-hand account is my very own story. The ongoing incest within my family created macrosociological and microsociological problems within our family and community. Healing from the abuse and effects of being raised by my biological father have effected how I relate to my community as an adult. One report states, “There are some researchers (Matsakis, 1991) who report that children who have been sexually abused by a relative suffer from even more intense guilt and shame, low self-esteem, depression and self-destructive behavior than children who have been sexually assaulted by a stranger.” (Atwood, 2007) In my case, I was conceived from incest, raised by my biological rapist dad, who then molested and raped me for 10 years. The effects are long standing.
The second type of assault I will detail is intimate partner rape. This happens when the relationship is no long one of mutual love and consent. The female in the relationship was forcibly made to perform the sex act. This lead to conception. Even in cases where the biological father is charged in the rape, the family courts will still give him parental rights. This action places the child conceived from his heinous and criminal act, in an unsafe environment. There are cases where the child has then been either physically and/or sexually abused by the rapist father. There is a better way to protect the child, which I will explain later in this report.
Marital rape is very close to intimate partner rape, but it can be harder to fight because of the legality of the marriage contract. Once the woman is able to safely get away from the physical and sexual abuse, including rape, often based on the 14thAmendment of the Constitution, family court judges will give the alleged rapist father rights to the child conceived from his rape of his now estranged wife. In this case, the child is a boy. He spends weekends with is abusive father. He is learning these deviant and socially unacceptable behaviors. It sets him up for a life of poverty and possible issues with the law just like his biological father. His rapist father having parental rights after committing sexual assault against his wife isn’t what is best for the young boy or his immediate community.
Finally, let’s take a serious look at what happens when a child is raised by his or her rapist father who is a sex-trafficker. This is a very closed system. If the child hasn’t been aborted, then the child is considered an addition to the “family.” If the child is a girl, she will be groomed and trained to be sold. The younger she is sold the more money her rapist father will get. He may even have a go first in her training. If the child is a boy, he will be trained by his biological father to sell women, to objectify women and to be a pimp just like his rapist father. The cycle of abuse and deviance continues. Society is broken in this crucial area for another generation because rapist fathers get parental rights. What can be done?
The main solution to the social problem of alleged rapist fathers having parental rights is to adopt a method of allowing the mothers of the child to present before the courts a clear and convincing standard of evidence, showing that she was raped. Since the issue of removing parental rights isn’t a criminal matter, the need to have findings “beyond a reasonable doubt” isn’t needed. An effective means to remove parental rights from the accused father is to use the less stringent means stated above. In a 2014 journal article, the author explains, “By creating a presumption rather than a strict requirement, a judicial hearing will still be required to determine if said presumption applies in specific factual situations. These hearings create an accessible forum for mothers to prove why the rights of the rapist should be terminated and, at the same time, protect the due process rights of all parties.” (Stevens, 2014) (quote from Hasting Law Journal Page 896) This solution would provide mothers a viable way to protect their child born from the violence committed against them.
As a social problem, it may seem hopeless that rapist fathers have access to the children that they conceive through their deviant and criminal acts. Often survivors would agree with this sentiment, however this problem doesn’t end with how the community and law can help. We are each called to act as an individual to be a light in the world. This issue affects each and every one of us.
Part 2: Biblical Principles to Social Problem Defined
As Christians, we look into social problems and feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the issue in front of us. We forget that we have the Gospel to offer to the sin problems surrounding us. How do we help where alleged rapist fathers are gaining parental rights to their biological children? Our hearts should be grieved for the children and mothers, angered at the injustice as we seek out what Christ Jesus would have us do to bring about change. The Lord Jesus grieved when He saw the brokenness in Jerusalem. Luke 19:41 says, “And when He drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,” First, I believe that our hearts must break over the injustice that is happening to these children.
We shouldn’t stay in a broken state over the problem. It should move us to action. God’s Word gives us clear direction on how to help these children. Let’s start by being their voice. The children born from sexual assault are stigmatized and discriminated against. Their very lives have been devalued. They need God-fearing men and women to speak up for them. Most children conceived in sexual assault are born to mothers who do not have the financial means to fight legal battles beyond what legal aid they receive. Titus 3:14 tell us to devote ourselves to good works especially in cases of urgent need and to not be unfruitful. How much more urgent of a need is there than to protect a child from being influenced by his/her rapist father? This may seem like an impossible task, but Ephesians 6:11 reminds us to put on the full armor of God to stand against the devil. Within the context of that passage, we are told that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.
Lastly, I want to focus on what specifically Godly men can do to battle this social problem. Until laws are changed, children will be placed into custody agreements with their rapist fathers. I want to encourage God-fearing men to challenge the men around them to fear and honor God! Preach the Gospel message that Christ Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, died a cursed death on the cross, was buried three days and rose victoriously from death to prove that He is who He said He was. His is God, our Judge and Advocate. He is our Redeemer. I know this may sound like preaching, but the only way to save the children being influenced by these fathers is to raise those men up! Jesus Christ is the only way to bring change to a man’s heart. Also, in Psalm 82:3-4, we are told,
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Men of God, lead out in this call! Show these children what the heart of Father God looks like!
Atwood, J. D. (2007). When love hurts: Preadolescent girls’ reports of incest. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 35(4), 287-313. doi:10.1080/01926180701389644
González-López, G. (2015). Family secrets stories of incest and sexual violence in Mexico. New York: New York University Press.
Reddington, F. P. (2009). Sexual assault: the victims, the perpetrators and the criminal justice system. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
Stevens, M. E. H. (2014). Rape-related pregnancies: The need to create stronger protections for the victim-mother and child. Hastings Law Journal, 65(3), 865.