31 States Still Allow Custody and Visitation Rights for Rapists

Nearly 25,000 women become pregnant as a result of rape every year.

Earlier this month, Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri was asked if women who become pregnant due to rape should have the option of abortion. He replied, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” His comments were widely criticized and medical experts explained that there is no evidence to support Akin’s claim.

One of Akin’s most outspoken opponents is Shauna Prewitt. When she was a 21 year old college student at the University of Chicago, she was raped and became pregnant. She ultimately decided to have the baby. Shockingly, her rapist attempted to get custody of her daughter. Rapists do this as a bargaining tool, asserting their power over their victims. The rapist will allow the victim to have full custody if they don’t prosecute him for the crime of rape.

In 31 states, there are no laws that bar rapists from seeking custody or visitation rights. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Prewitt explains, “My attacker sought custody of my daughter, but thankfully I got lucky and his visitation rights were terminated.” According to Prewitt, nearly 25,000 women become pregnant as a result of rape every year. Congressman Akin later retracted his comments, claiming he misspoke in the interview.


The Am Law Daily, “Skadden Associate, Herself a Rape Victim, Dives Into Akin Fray,” Brian Baxter, August 22, 2012.

CNN Online, “Raped, pregnant and ordeal not over,” Shauna Prewitt, August 23, 2012.

XOJane, “An Open Letter to Rep. Akin from a Woman Who Got Pregnant from Rape,” Shauna Prewitt, August 20, 2012.

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