Illinois Attorney Wants Added Protections for Children of Rape Victims

March 25, 2013

A Chicago attorney is asking Illinois legislators to do more to protect the children of rape victims. 

Shauna Prewitt is an attorney now.  But when she was a senior in college, she was raped and became pregnant.  She decided to keep the child, a daughter.Some victims of rape become pregnant and decide to keep the child, which is what Prewitt decided to do.

"Seven years ago I had to fight my rapist for custody of my daughter," Prewitt said.

Prewitt's now advocating for what she calls a "small but important change."

"In Illinois law currently, a woman who is raped can have the visitation and custody privileges of her attacker restricted,” she said. “But only if she has a criminal rape conviction against that attacker."

She said less than five-percent of all rapes end with a conviction, leaving victims like her without protection.

Prewitt's pressing legislators to lower that standard so "clear and convincing" evidence of a rape would be enough to restrict an attacker's parental rights. She said that is still a substantial hurdle for a woman to prove, and it is already the standard for other custody cases, like those involving abuse and neglect.

"What this bill does is it allows a woman who does not have a criminal rape conviction but who can prove by clear and convincing evidence that she was raped to also be able to restrict custody or parental rights of her attacker," she explained.

Upon hearing Prewitt's testimony, a House committee approved the proposal.  The measure now heads to the full House.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio