It seems the worst-case scenario for a rape victim: co-parenting with their rapist. Someone who forced themselves on you, took advantage of you, and left you with mental trauma. It’s almost impossible to believe you could parent a child with this person.
Yet, it is possible, and the rapist might still have their rights. This is wrong.
When a woman has been raped, it is cruel and a violation of her human rights to force her to share parenting duties with her attacker. It is hard enough to recover from the trauma of being raped without having to constantly face the person who violated you.
There are 31 states that allow rapists to their visitation rights to their child. Oregon, however, has a law preventing rapists from having visitation rights.
Oregon may not force victims to parent with their rapists, but it still happens, including to one former Parkrose student who says her parents forced her to co-parent with her rapist.
“It was very uncomfortable and emotional. There were plenty of times I thought of abortion, and since I couldn’t afford it, I almost turned to suicide,” she said.
Hannah Smith (her name has been changed to protect her identity) was 15 years old when she was raped by a 33-year-old family friend. She was too afraid to say anything to anyone because she was ashamed. She felt no one would believe her or want to help her.
Many rapists study their victim long before they take action. Smith’s rapist started to groom her after moving in with her family. He had been kicked out of his home, and Smith’s parents took him in.
In just three months of living with the family, he began to make his move.
“First, he woke me out of my sleep with one hand on my waist and the other twirling in my hair. I’ve never experienced being woken up that way,” Smith said.
“He would compliment me during weird times. When I was just getting out of the shower, eating something, or playing with my niece. It was weird, but I tried to overlook it,” Smith said.
He was building fear in her so that she wouldn’t tell her parents.
“One day, I was on the phone with one of my only friends at the time. He walked in my room smiling and being very playful. I felt something was going to happen, so I hung up. I was beginning to send her a text saying I’ll call her later. But he then jumped on me and took advantage of me,” Smith said.
After the rape, she couldn’t believe something like that happened to her.
“I began to realize I can’t put nothing past anyone. I was broken,” Smith said.
Her rapist owned up to having sexual interactions with her but claimed it wasn’t rape. According to Oregon law, however, a 15-year-old cannot legally consent to sex with a 33-year-old man.
“My mother was in complete disbelief. She thought I gave myself away to this man.”
Her mother told her that if he is the father, then Smith should be willing to stick it out with him. Smith kept the rape a secret and co-parented with her rapist until she finally told herself she couldn’t take it anymore. Enough was enough for her.
It’s common for rape victims to feel alone, but there are places to get help, especially in Portland, Oregon.
Smith finally told her sister’s caseworker what happened.
“My sister’s caseworker told me she had to tell the higher authority,” Smith said.
In addition to reporting the child abuse, the caseworker introduced Smith to people who could help her.
“I accepted the help because it was needed. I felt I had no one,” Smith said.
Smith now lives with her grandmother and doesn’t have any more contact with her rapist.
“I don’t even want to think about him. I want my story to more so be about being a survivor,” Smith said.
Smith didn’t want sympathy from anyone, so she decided to leave Parkrose. She now attends a night school program.
“I want to suggest any rape survivors out there to Multnomah County District,” Smith said. “They help a lot with rape cases and getting you well. I was in therapy for a year. It did me justice,” Smith said.
Although Oregon does have laws to protect rape victims from co-parenting with their rapists, there are 31 states where women are not protected.
In 2011, CNN told the story of Noemi (whose last name was not reported by CNN), a rape victim who is co-parenting with her rapist. Noemi was 18 years old, a “naive high schooler” who was working at a fast food place. Her co-worker offered her a ride to his place where he then raped her.
I wouldn’t doubt that “just get an abortion” is what many are thinking. It’s simple to come to that conclusion in this situation. But women shouldn’t be forced to choose between an abortion and staying away from their rapist.
“After I went to the doctor and I heard her heartbeat, it was kind of hard to say no,” Noemi said.
She doesn’t blame her daughter for the misfortune that occurred in her life.
Although Noemi chose to keep her baby, she shouldn’t have to continue to feel threatened by her rapist.
“I felt my baby’s life was in danger,” Noemi said. The thought of her child possibly being violated by the person she would have to leave her child alone with due to co-parenting laws isn’t right.
It’s wrong for women to have no protection against their rapists. It could possibly cause them to feel helpless in our country that stands for “Liberty and justice for all.”
Noemi is willing to go in headstrong to challenge this law. She plans on testifying to save other mothers from co-parenting with their rapists.
Rape victims should never be forced to have their rapist in their life. States that protect their victims should step up and speak out. Women like Hannah and Noemi deserve our voice and deserve a chance to feel safe in our country. They need the people as a whole to take action on what has been overlooked in many cases.
A woman who has been raped shouldn’t feel that she can’t keep her baby because she would be forced to co-parent with her rapist. Hannah, Noemi and other victims need justice.