Termination of rapists’ parental rights discussed

Convicted sex offenders would be prevented from seeking parental rights under legislation heard by the Judiciary Committee Jan. 22.

LB748, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, would terminate the parental rights of the biological father of a child conceived as a result of a first, second or third degree sexual assault. The bill also would deny similarly convicted sex offenders custody, unsupervised parenting time or visitation with children.

If a biological father has been charged with a sexual assault, the bill would require a court to delay paternity action until guilt or innocence is determined.

Avery said the purpose of the bill is to protect women who are victims of sexual assault from further physical and psychological harm by their attackers.

“We must not have cases in our state where a person is faced with a choice between a lifetime tethered to a rapist or moving forward with a meaningful life for herself and her child,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone who has been raped should have to deal with the ongoing contact from the rapist for life, if they decide to keep their child,” said a rape victim from Norfolk, who testified in support of the bill. She said she had been pressured by her rapist and his lawyers into allowing access to her daughter.

Without legal protection, she said, “those of us who choose to keep our child have to face the overwhelming fear of being bullied and being controlled by the rapist if he wants access to the baby.”

Liane Bode, a licensed mental health practitioner from Norfolk, also testified in support of the bill. As a therapist who works with rape victims, Bode said women do not feel protected by the current legal system and changes must be made.

No testimony was given in opposition to LB748 and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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