On Wednesday night's episode of The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart skewered Rolling Stone for not firing any of its staff members in light of Columbia's damning report that might mean huge consequences for rape victims coming forward in the future. However, the already infuriating story is only a jumping-off point for a much more disturbing one on America's rape culture. In an interview with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee learned that rapists can claim custody of the child conceived out of the assault. Yes, that's actually a thing, and the law hasn't done anything about it.
After Stewart's cutting rant about Rolling Stone, he points out that "under-reporting and bad media are only two of the many systemic issues that America's rape victims have to contend with." And they're actually quite tame when compared to certain other issues, some that might make you want to give up on American society altogether. For example? In most states (31 as of 2012), there is no law that prohibits a rapist from seeking custody and visitation rights as a parent.
Bee sat down with Schultz about one such issue, and here's how the Congresswoman describes it:
Right now, a woman doesn't have the right, across America, to terminate her rapist's parental rights.
In other words, if you become pregnant as a result of a rape, your rapist could feasibly get custody of your child. After delivering this chilling reality, Bee seems incredulous.
Every other weekend, you have to meet your rapist in a Denny's parking lot and hand over your child? No, that can't be real.
But it is.
Rape survivor Shauna Prewitt had to battle that exact nightmare for two years as she fought her own rapist for custody of her child, and now she's a public advocate helping to get new legislation passed. After hearing Prewitt's story, Bee becomes so distraught over what she calls an "un-fucking-believable situation" that she had to bring out her emergency emotional support baby chickens.
Luckily, Schultz has introduced new legislation to prevent rapists from seeking custody of the survivor's child and has bipartisan support from both pro-life and pro-choice lawmakers. But the bill, called the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, didn't even get a hearing due a "small funding issue" over what amounted to be about $5 million a year, which Bee points out is how much the government spends per year promoting fruit on social media.
It's a good thing Bee had her emergency Yorkshire Terrier to help her get through this segment.
Schultz has since reintroduced the bill, hoping that this time it will pass. But there's yet another catch: It's up to the states to approve the legislation. Schultz explains, "We incentivize the states that don't have this law in place" in order to help pass the bill. What Bee wants to know in the first place is why states need an incentive to begin with.
That's when Prewitt explains that it stems from legislators' suspicions of rape victims who cry wolf. Wait, it gets worse. Rapists have actually used the law as leverage, telling their victims that they won't seek custody if she drops the charges.
That's when Bee gives up on society entirely. She walks out of the studio, out of New York, and goes to her emergency winter cabin, where she seeks refuge.
Would you look at the lack of soul-crushing government dysfunction?
In spite of her peaceful new life off the grid, Bee eventually goes back to finish the story because she had "left that lady sitting there for a long time."
Continuing their interview, Prewitt finally reveals some good news. Shockingly, Florida is one state that has exemplary legislation in place to prevent rapists claiming custody, and the advocate would like to see it replicated elsewhere. Bee tells her:
I've been doing this job for a long time and I have never said these words before: "Good job, Florida."
As for the other states? The correspondent gives them a good, old-fashioned state shaming.
Watch the segment below.
Images: Comedy Central/YouTube