Bill would terminate parental rights of rapists
By Megan Powell
Original article can be found at TheStatehouseFile.com.
INDIANAPOLIS – Rep. Hale Slager, R-Schererville, wants legislators to prevent rapists from having parental rights if their crime resulted in a child.
“The best way to describe it with existing law, in Indiana, allows that should a rape victim keep the child, the convicted rapist could exert parental and custodial rights,” said Slager. “This bulk of the bill is intended to address that injustice.”
Slager shared the testimony of a teenage mother from a summer study. Slager said she was raped at the age of 13 and that her rapist was also a minor. He was convicted in a juvenile court and served time.
When he was released, he returned to the same school where the victim attended. She was forced to find a new school to avoid interaction with her rapist.
“Now, the convicted rapist and his parents are trying to exert custodial rights for the child, her baby,” Slager said.
Under House Bill 1064, the court would be able to terminate the parent-child relationship.
The court would have to find the perpetrator guilty of rape against the parent and that the child was conceived as a result of the act of rape. The rape victim would then have to file a petition to terminate the parent-child relationship.
The court would then have to determine if terminating the relationship would be in the best interests of the child.
“A bill that was passed at the federal level that adds some additional grant money to existing formulas for states that adopt the language that would be contained in this bill,” Slager said.
This bill was first heard in the Senate several years ago and then was hung up in the house.
“I have heard any number of stories of children conceived in rape or parents dealing with this issue and then having to deal with the fathers and then find out that, in fact, Indiana law doesn’t protect rape victims in this regard,” Slager said.
Kristen Police, director of programs in training at the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking, testified on the behalf of sexual assault survivors.
“What other crime would a victim legally be obligated to interact with their perpetrator,” said Police. “For a woman whose life will never be the same from that moment she was raped and wakes up each morning in a new unasked for reality, working each day to build back self-worth, strength, a sense of safety etcetera, be required to notify your rapist that you want to move or take your child to church or enroll or un-enroll your child in an after school program or any other custodial matter, is unconscionable.”
“Victims of crime should be supported and protected by legislation,” Police said. “By passing this legislation, you will be doing just that.”
Vice President of Indiana Right to Life, Sue Swayze also supported the bill.
“I can imagine we would all support the concept that if a woman is raped and has a child, she should not deal with the guy,” said Swayze.
During the hearing, Sherrie Eldridge spoke on the behalf of Hope after Rape Conception on her personal experience of being a child as a result of a rape.
“Had my birth mother not place me for adoption, I cannot imagine the horror of having possibly been exposed to the rapist,” said Eldridge during the hearing. “It would have been horrible. I can assure you, I would have wanted nothing to do with him.”
Although Eldridge supports the bill’s central idea, she disagreed with the bill’s requirement of a deadline for filing a petition to terminate parental rights.
If the parent is an adult at the time of the rape, the bill would require a petition be filed within 180 days of the child’s birth. If the parent is under 18 years old at the time of the rape, the victim would have two years after reaching the age of adulthood to file a petition.
Regardless, Eldridge said she was pleased that the bill unanimously passed committee.
“I am just overjoyed,” Eldridge said. “This is just wonderful. It protects both the mother and the child and I am the child in that situation and I’m just glad for all of the other children that are coming in generations ahead that there will be protection.”
The bill will return to the House for potential amendments.
Megan Powell is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.