Raped, Pregnant, And Sued For Custody? One Woman’s Horrific Story

Shauna R. Prewitt, a lawyer in Chicago, has an absolutely terrible and horrifying story to tell. When she was twenty-one years of age, she was raped. Contrary to the belief of some conservatives, this rape conceived a child. Shauna Prewitt, like a surprising thirty percent of women who conceive by rape, decided to keep the child.

And she was sued for custody by the rapist. In an article published today by CNN, she talks about the despicable lack of justice that led to this, “It would not be long before I would learn firsthand that in the most of states — 31 — men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy. When no law prohibits a rapist from exercising these rights, a woman may feel forced to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for the rapist dropping the bid to have access to her child.”

Her story is painful to read, but absolutely riveting:

While a student in my final year of college, at age 21, I was raped. I have dissected that moment — the horrifying moment that I became a “victim” — from every possible angle. I have poked and prodded, examined and re-examined. Regrettably, I have even suspected myself in a desperate, ultimately futile attempt to understand how I became a victim.

But blaming myself was neither my idea nor my first inclination. I thought such 17th-century notions were long dead. I was wrong. People who did not even know me were quick to comment or speculate on my rape. What were you wearing? Did you scream loudly? Did this occur in public?

Shauna also addresses Todd Akin’s recent hateful and ignorant remarks, saying, “Rep. Todd Akin’s recent comments that ‘legitimate rape’ rarely results in pregnancy not only flout scientific fact but, for me, cut deeper. Akin has de-legitimized my rape.”

She goes on later to explain:

Having fought this injustice for the past several years, I have come to believe that ignorance is to blame for this legal absence. Opponents argue no woman would ever choose to raise the child she conceived through rape. The only two studies to analyze the choices made by pregnant raped women indicate otherwise — at least 30% of women who conceive by rape make this choice.

Others argue that no rapist would ever seek parental rights. Not only does my experience and that of others I know prove otherwise, but it is not surprising that a man who cruelly degrades a woman would also seek to torture her in an even more agonizing way, by seeking access to her child.

A link to “Giving Birth to a ‘Rapist’s Child’: A Discussion and Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Become Mothers Through Rape,” a paper Shauna Prewitt wrote for the Georgetown Law Journal, is available here.

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