Friday, February 15, 2013

Woman had sex with unconscious man, resulting in birth of a child: man held liable for child support

Despite our modern notions about gender equality, the law does not treat male and female perpetrators the same, nor does it treat male and female victims the same. Yet, sometimes, the persons who dominate the public discourse on gender issues assume that the law is written to favor males. They are largely mistaken.  Consider the following.

In S.F. v. ex rel. T.M., 695 So.2d 1186 (Ala. Civ. App. 1996), a woman had nonconsensual sex with an unconscious man several times, resulting in the birth of a child. The unconscious man was held liable for child support. The court held that the mother's wrongful act did not alter the father's duty to provide support for the child, even though the father was the victim of a sexual assault.

That result is, of course, an outrage by any rational standard, except the law doesn't see it that way. Similarly, when a teen boy is statutorily raped by an adult woman and he happens to impregnate her, he is liable for child support if the statutory rapist decides to have the baby (which means, his parents will have to pay for their son's child if they want to keep him out of jail).  There is no similar imposition of responsibility on female victims of statutory rape. When a girl is statutorily raped, she can decide to have an abortion at taxpayers' expense. In contrast, taxpayers have no obligation to pay for the product of a boy's victimization -- that responsibility is his, and his alone.

In the case of County of San Luis Obispo v. Nathaniel J., 57 Cal. Rptr. 2d 843 (Ct. App. 1996), a thirty-four-year-old woman had sex with a fifteen-year-old boy and she became pregnant. The woman was convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor -- commonly called statutory rape. She decided to have the child, and after she gave birth to her daughter, she received Aid for Families with Dependent Children. The county sought reimbursement for the AFDC payments from the father, the 15-year-old boy. The court held that the boy, a statutory rape victim, was financially liable for the child that resulted from his victimization. He "is not an innocent victim," said the court. We have been unable to find a judicial decision where a court declared that a female victim of statutory rape was not "an innocent victim."

Other state supreme courts and several state appellate courts have ruled that male statutory rape victims can be financially liable for supporting a child resulting from their criminal victimization.

In one case, a 15-year-old boy who was statutorily raped was held to be "not an innocent victim of [a female adult's] criminal act, and the law should not excuse him from his responsibility to support his biological child. Oklahoma's public policy mandating parental support of children outweighs any policy of protecting minors from the consequences of their willing participation in sexual misconduct with adults." Stringer v. Dep't of Human Services ex rel. Baker, 2004 OK CIV APP 97; 104 P.3d 1132 (2004).  California courts say that "a minor . . . who voluntarily engages in sexual intercourse is not necessarily a victim of sexual abuse." In re Kyle F., 112 Cal. App. 4th 538, 543, 5 Cal. Rptr. 3d 190 (Cal. Ct. App. 2003).

There are victims, and there are victims. Too often, courts have a difficult time envisioning men, or even boys, as victims.