A 24-year-old man who impregnated a 20-year-old woman when he was 14 is being forced by the state of Arizona to pay $US15,000 in back child support and medical bills, in addition to 10% interest — even though he was the victim of statutory rape and never even knew he had a child until two years ago, azcentral.com reports.
Although he had sex with the woman willingly and never pressed charges, Nick Olivas was technically a rape victim because under Arizona law a child younger than 15 cannot give sexual consent. But Arizona’s Department of Economic Security has a policy holding men in Olivas’ situation responsible for paying child support as long as the parent seeking it hasn’t been found guilty of sexual assault.
The fact that Olivas was a child at the time and he didn’t know about the existence of his child makes no difference to the state, which has seized money from his bank account and is taking $US380 per month from his wages. Olivas doesn’t feel the state has a right to make him pay for previous years. “Anything I do as an adult, I should be responsible for,” he told azcentral.com. “But as a teenager? I don’t think so.”
Olivas’ case is not the first of its kind. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1993 that 13-year-old Shane Seyer who impregnated his 17-year-old babysitter Colleen Hermesmann was responsible for paying child support even though he was under 16, the age of sexual consent.
In that decision, the court ruled that the state’s interest in ensuring parental support for the young child — “the only truly innocent party” — outweighed its interest in protecting juveniles like Seyer. “This state’s interest in requiring minor parents to support their children overrides the state’s competing interest in protecting juveniles from improvident acts, even when such acts may include criminal activity on the part of the other parent,” the court said, as reported by The Associated Press.
A California appeals court ruled in 1996 that a young man identified only as Nathanial J. was responsible for paying child support, although he was only 15 when he impregnated a 34-year-old neighbour who was later convicted of statutory rape, reported the San Francisco Examiner.
“Our point of view is that the newborn is the victim in these matters,” Carol Ann White, a lawyer heading the attorney general’s child-support-enforcement unit, told the Examiner. “No matter what the circumstances of their conception, babies deserve to have two parents.”
Some have criticised these decisions as rare instances of gender discrimination against males, arguing courts would not make the same decision if the roles were reversed. “The family court judge here mischaracterized the situation, as evidenced by the judicial decision’s word choice,” wrote Myrisha S. Lewis in the Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society of the decision concerning Nathaniel J. “Most notably, the court states that this child, Nathaniel J., ‘decided’ to have sex with a thirty-four-year-old woman, even though the law does not recognise Nathaniel J.’s ability to make the decision. … [H]ad Nathaniel J. been a female victim of statutory rape, it is doubtful that a court would decide that he was not an ‘innocent victim’ or mention his role in his own victimization.”
“The idea that a woman would have to send money to a man who raped her is absolutely off-the-charts ridiculous,” director of the advocacy group National Center for Men Mel Feit told azcentral.com in regards to the latest incident regarding Olivas. “It wouldn’t be tolerated, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.”
Arizona’s Department of Economic Security did not immediately returned Business Insider’s request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
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