When Tiffany Gordon was 12-years old Christopher Mirasolo, 18, invited Tiffany, her sister, and her friend to go on a car ride late at night. Although Tiffany thought the group we would be going to McDonald’s, Mirasolo took the group of girls to an abandoned house and raped Tiffany, Mother Jones reports.
A month after the assault, Tiffany discovered that she was pregnant. Mirasolo pleaded guilty to attempted rape and was sentenced to two years in prison. After a year, he was released. Soon after his release Mirasolo raped another girl and was sent back to jail. He was sentenced to 5 to 15 years.
Although some members of her family encouraged Tiffany to abort the pregnancy, she said, “My son was innocent.”
Tiffany, now 23, dropped out of school and didn’t talk about the rape for nearly nine years. In 2017, she finally applied for state assistance. Judge Gregory S. Ross quickly gave joint custody to Mirasolo without any information about how she became pregnant. Ross also ordered Tiffany to live within 100 miles of Mirasolo and gave Mirasolo Tiffany’s address. To top it off, he ordered that Mirasolo’s name be added to Tiffany’s son’s birth certificate.
Many women get pregnant through rape and about a third choose to keep the pregnancy. Of these women, many are forced to co-parent with their rapist if the rapist is not convicted of a felony sexual assault.
Rebecca Kiessling, Tiffany’s lawyer gathered media attention for the case and wrote a petition that was signed by over 140,000 people, in response, Ross reversed his ruling and said he was not aware of the circumstances behind Tiffany’s pregnancy.
After the traumatizing custody battle, Tiffany was worried that her rapist would try to become part of her son’s life. “Does he show up and kidnap him? I don’t know,” Tiffany says. “Could he show up at his school and take him?”
Some argue that requiring a criminal conviction in order to terminate parental rights makes little sense as rapes are not highly reported and less than 1% of rapes lead to felony convictions. In 2015, President Obama passed the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act to encourage states to terminate a father’s parental rights in the case of “clear and convincing evidence” of rape. States that did so would be given more federal funding for violence-prevention programs.
This discussion has become more relevant than ever as Alabama has passed a near-total ban on abortion without exceptions for rape or incest. Alabama has no law that severs custody rights of fathers even when he was convicted of first-degree rape.
Kiessling is now working with a legislator in Alabama to change custody laws in the state.
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