Senate Passes Rape Survivor Child Custody Act

The United States Senate gathers in the chamber to voteThe US Senate this week voted to push states to restrict the rights of rapists to claim custody over the children conceived as a result of the rape, providing key protections to sexual assault survivors and their children.

The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, originally introduced by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), passed as an amendment to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, a comprehensive human trafficking bill sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

RAINN lobbied hard for the bipartisan legislation, says Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN’s vice president for public policy. “This bill incentivizes states that have not already done so to enact laws that block some parental rights, such as custody and visitation, of rapists over children that result from the criminal actions,” she says.

“We are grateful to Senate leaders, including Sens. Brown and Ayotte, who championed this measure, as well as the many others who supported its inclusion as an amendment,” says O'Connor. "The passage of this measure, together with historic protections for victims of sex trafficking, marked a great day on Capitol Hill for victims of sexual violence. We look forward to working to ensure swift passage of this language in the House with leadership from Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Thomas Marino and others.”

“I am thrilled that the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act recently passed by the Senate includes my Rape Survivor Child Custody Act,” says Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “It has taken far too long for the House to move on this legislation, which is so critical to the protection of women and their children. I cannot think of a more common sense and morally justified policy than allowing a woman to terminate the parental rights of a rapist, and hopefully with the Senate taking this step forward, my House colleagues will be compelled to act.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) stresses the importance of how this bill support survivors: “Rape victims have been through enough already – they should never have to suffer through sharing custody of their child with the person who exploited them. That’s why I was so pleased to see the Senate agree on a bipartisan basis to include the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act in the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.”

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