Sharing Child Custody with Your Rapist


The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that there are around 17,000 to 32,000 rape-related pregnancies in the United States every year (LRW-DATA-1)*. About 32 to50 percent of these victims keep their children, which equates to about 5,000 to 16,000 mothers. [1].

The road ahead cannot be easy for women who make this difficult decision to keep their rapist’s child.

One woman who chose to raise her child who was conceived through rape expresses the love that she has for her child, but also describes the pain she feels every time her daughter asks about her father—or when she sometimes looks at her child and sees her attacker [2].

Not only would this situation result in incredible emotional and mental pain, it would also be accompanied with the usual difficulties of raising a child alone. Single mothers are already disadvantaged economically.

Compound this fact with the reality that a disproportionate percentage of the women who are raped are economically disadvantaged to begin with, [3] and the mothers raising the children of their rapists are in for an arduous journey.

And that’s before she finds out she has to share custody with her attacker.

court roomThe economic vulnerability of these women is also to blame for sometimes creating a joint-custody situation between the rapist and victim. Women filling out applications for food or medical assistance have to include the father’s information; this begins an investigation into the father.

What would this custody sharing even look like? A mother in this situation describes fear and frustration of leaving her daughter with this man, having to constantly communicate with him, and discuss the details of her daughter’s education and health with him [1].

Depending on which state they live in, these 5,000-16,000 mothers may face the possibility of sharing custody with their attacker. While several states passed new legislation last year, there are still seven states lacking legislation to protect rape victims from custody battles with their rapist (CUST-LAW-1).

Furthermore, the rest of the states vary greatly in the strength of their legislation. Some states require the rapist to be convicted in court; others only require convincing evidence that the crime was committed [1]. This can be difficult regardless of the legislative requirements since only 334 out of 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police [4].

This dilemma perpetuates the trauma that thousands of American women will face every year. If you are also troubled by this situation, I encourage you to find out the laws in your state [5] and write or call your senator to encourage them to advocate for legislation that could help.

—by ENB



[1] Patterson, Thom. “Pregnant by rape and forced to co-Parent.” CNN, Cable News Network, 18 Nov. 2016,

[2] “I Am Raising the Daughter of A Man Who Raped Me.” XoJane: Women’s Lifestyle & Community Site – xoJane, 27 Mar. 2017,

[3] Rennison, Callie Marie. “Opinion | Who Suffers Most From Rape and Sexual Assault in America?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Dec. 2014,

[4]. The Criminal Justice System: Statistics | RAINN,

[5] Hare, Breeanna, and Lisa Rose. “Where rapists can gain parental rights.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Nov. 2016,

*For more information on rape (or any other topic concerning women, we have 350 variables) in America (or any of the 176 countries we code for) visit our database. Some of the variables used in writing this post were LRW-DATA-1 and CUST-LAW-1

LRW-DATA-1: This data point seeks to answer the question of how prevalent rape and sexual assault are.

CUST-LAW-1: This data point talks about who legally receives custody, what the laws are, and describes the situation of children of unmarried or common-law married parents.


2 thoughts on “Sharing Child Custody with Your Rapist

  1. V Hudson says:

    Great topic! Who could have possibly thought not to protect women in this way? I can only suppose it was men, who have never and will never be forced to bear the child of a rapist.

  2. Ashley Alley says:

    I am not even sure where to start with my comment on this post…I feel that this article articulates how so many issues in our society compound on one another to create this society of entrapped women.

    From this brief blog post we can launch into a variety of societal issues facing our country today, including but not limited to: victim-shaming, prevalence of rape culture, access to contraceptives, emotional/mental health, custody rights, etc.

    But…I will try to just focus on one issue for this comment.

    Why should an individual who wanted sexual satisfaction without responsibility for their actions be trusted to help raise a child? I would be all for the rapist being required to pay child support or other such financial assistance, but all of this should be done without direct contact with the victim or the child. The rapist should have no such thing as “parental authority” in these situations. I do not see any reason why this would not make sense to enforce nation-wide, world-wide even.

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