Furthermore, most rapists are never convicted. The crime is hard to prove, since it often comes down to the victim’s word against her attacker’s. Only 12% of rapes result in an arrest, let alone a conviction, estimates the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Paternity, by contrast, is easy to prove, thanks to DNA tests. So there are cases where the court knows a man is the father but does not know he is a rapist.
Some of these men discover they are fathers only when the state targets them for child support, as single mothers must identify them to qualify for government assistance. This prompts some to file a lawsuit of their own. “They just say: ‘If I’m going to pay for it, I’m going to see it’,” says Rebecca Kiessling, a family-law attorney. It can be a way to punish victims, or intimidate survivors into refusing to testify against them. “Like with rape, this is just about power and control,” says Ms Kiessling.