A sexual predator in Maine raped a girl when she was 13 and 14-years-old and, after she became pregnant and rejected an abortion, he filed a lawsuit seeking custody of the baby. Now, the Maine Supreme Court has decided that Richard Sullivan is not entitled to custody.
In 31 states, rapists are allowed to seek custody of the children born as a result of their crime.
Courthouse News Service reports on what happened:
Sullivan arranged an abortion for Doe when she was 16. When Doe was 20, she gave birth to a daughter. He stayed with Doe and the child off and on for the next three and a half years.
That arrangement stopped in 2011, when Doe obtained a protection order against Sullivan. The order was later extended through 2015.
Later in 2011, Sullivan went to court for a determination of his parental rights and child support.
The court found that Sullivan had not abused the child, but he is facing five counts of sexual abuse of a minor based on his relationship with Doe.
The civil court awarded sole custody of the child to Doe and denied Sullivan any contact with the girl, who is now seven years old.
According to the trial court, Sullivan’s abuse of Doe fell on “the extreme end of the spectrum,” his predatory behavior was untreated, and he posed a threat to his daughter. Sullivan appealed, and the Maine Supreme Court affirmed the decision in an opinion written by Justice Donald G. Alexander.
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“Given the evidence, and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, of Sullivan’s history of sexually abusing a young girl, and of his subsequent failure to acknowledge or seek treatment for his victimization of a minor, the court’s determination that he poses a significant risk to minors is fully supported by the record,” he wrote.
Legislation punishing rape is extremely skewed in the United States. Frequently, the children are punished for their father’s crimes by being aborted due to the circumstances of their life. To make the situation even more threatening to the little ones, a woman who courageously chooses to carry the child of her rapist to term is faced with the possibility, in most states, that her rapist will seek custody of her child.
Rather than vehemently punishing the abhorrent acts of these men, legislation punishes the children and mothers instead.
Shauna Prewitt, a Chicago-based attorney and rape-victim advocate has become a high-profile supporter of state legislation that prevents rapists from demanding custody of their victim’s children. When Prewitt was in college she was raped and became pregnant, and chose life for her baby girl. Her rapist then sued her for custody of the child!
As Prewitt explained to CNN, in many states, “…men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy.”
Rather than vehemently punishing the abhorrent acts of these men, legislation punishes the children and mothers instead. Today, Prewitt advocates for the rights of mothers who have experienced rape and become pregnant, and she advocates for the right to life of the children conceived in rape.
“I think this world would be a much worse place without my little girl in it. I think the world needs more people like her,” Prewitt says.