Lessons Lawmakers Should Learn From the Ariel Castro Case


After pleading guilty to 954 charges, Judge Russo sentenced Ariel Castro to  life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 1,000 years for charges related to the kidnapping, torture and multiple rapes of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.  He was also convicted of killing the fetuses he didn’t want from the multiple pregnancies  his victims endured as a result from rape. As of now, this monster and others like him i 31 states have  the right to seek  custody and visitation with the children resultin from the violent crime of rape.

Last month, Castro did seek parental rights which obviously were denied as the request was deemed “inappropriate.”   Gee, ya think?

Fortunately, this case inspired lawmakers in Ohio to strip rapists of parental rights  - which they never should have had in the first place.

The notion of allowing a rapist such rights is akin to allowing any criminal to profit from their crimes.  It basically says go forth, rape and therefore multiply.   Never mind that the act of rape is a crime, you still have the life- long benefit of a relationship with the child resulting from that rape. In other words, affording custody to rapists is providing a criminal a life -long benefit directly resulting from their crime. In the minds of some twisted people it could be seen as an incentive to rape.

One is hard-pressed to find anything remotely positive coming from the decade long torture these young women face.  They lived in conditions worse than those of a prison – spending most of their time in chains – when they weren’t being raped or forced to watch news coverage of their kidnapping.  I doubt Stephen King could come up with a story that comes remotely close to the nightmare these young women experienced.  Yet, they survived and as the judge put it during sentencing: they prevailed.

More  good can come from this case.  First, we have documented proof and findings by a court that contrary to the Nazi “science”  that Todd Aikin relied on, rape can and does result in pregnancy.  It even results in pregnancy when the victims live under the unimaginable conditions that Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina de Jesus lived under. Based on the fact that Michelle Knight was impregnated five times, one might even notice that pregnancy resulting from rape is anything but a rare occurrence.

We knew it.  Science proved it.  This case gave a court’s seal of approval to what we already knew.

Actually, 31 states also knew it – because they passed laws that allow rapists visitation rights to the children conceived though the violent and criminal act of rape.

There isn’t a credible argument to suggest that rapists should have access to the children resulting from their violence and criminal acts.

What part of exposing a child to a violent criminal comes remotely near serving the child’s best interests?

Let’s assume for a moment that a child resulting from rape has the natural curiosity of wanting to meet their father – even if he is a bad guy. After all, rape was a part of the nightmare Castro’s victims endured, but not all of it. Castro also decided if or when the pregnancies would be terminated.  These young women endured psychological and physical torture in his hands.  They endured absolute control and sub human living conditions for a prolonged period of 10 years.

There are many more case in which rape was a one-time incident, vs. numerous times over a decade and the victim wasn’t subjected to living a horror story for an extensive period. Clearly, Castro is in a category of monster all his own.

But there are two undeniable facts that remain the same regardless of whether a victim was raped endured all that crime entails once or many times.  There was a rape and there was a pregnancy resulting from that rape.  The prospect of a child benefitting from regular encounters with their mother’s rapist remains unclear to me.  Is the child who was conceived through rape really going to be consoled by knowing at least his or her mother wasn’t held captive under inhuman conditions for a decade and daddy “only” raped Mommy once?

Moreover, within the context of constant attacks on women’s rights many states are basically doing to women what Castro did to his victims.  As Castro did, the state and only the state will make decisions about a woman’s pregnancy – stripping her of autonomy and the very dignity that comes with having autonomy over one’s body, and healthcare decisions.  They will be forced to bear their rapist’s child – regardless of their health and well-being , let alone their wishes. While some governors may think that women losing autonomy over their bodies and their relationship with their doctor can possibly be consoled with cookies  (even chocolate chip cookies) the fact is there will be many more rape victims facing the prospect of enduring a lifelong “relationship” with their rapist.  One can only wonder how that will affect her psychological well-being and with it, what affect that will have on the child.

In that respect, what are the odds that forcing a victim of rape to endure a life-long tie with her rapist will somehow benefit the child?

In the closing moments of Ariel Castro’s sentencing, the Judge made clear that he was to have no contact with his victims – as that was their wish. It seems to me there is a lesson or several in there somewhere.

Lawmakers in Ohio picked up on some of those lessons with their proposed law to strip rapists of their “right” to custody and or visitation with children resulting from their crimes.  Lawmakers in other states and DC should take note.

Image via Huffington Post 

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