An Arizona man owes more than $15,000 in child support payments for a daughter he fathered as a result of statutory rape.
Nick Olivas engaged in a sexual relationship with a 20-year-old woman while in high school, reported the Arizona Republic, but state law prohibits children younger than 15 to consent as an adult under any circumstances.
Olivas did not press charges at the time, saying he was unaware that was an option, and he lost touch with the woman – whom he believes took advantage of him.
The state served him with papers two years ago demanding child support for a 6-year-old daughter he fathered during the relationship.
"It was a shock," said Olivas, who is now 24 and working as a medical assistant in Phoenix. "I was living my life and enjoying being young. To find out you have a 6-year-old? It's unexplainable. It freaked me out."
He said he ignored the legal documents and never submitted to the required paternity test, but eventually authorities tracked him down.
A court determined he owed back child support and medical bills, plus 10 percent interest.
The state seized money from his bank account and now garnishes about $380 from his wages each month.
Olivas said he wants to be part of his daughter’s life and pay child support going forward, but he doesn’t think it’s fair to make him pay for years when he was unaware the girl existed.
"Anything I do as an adult, I should be responsible for, but as a teenager? I don't think so," he said.
Courts have consistently found that states may order statutory rape victims to pay child support in similar – but rare – cases.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that a 13-year-old boy who had impregnated his 17-year-old babysitter was liable for child support – although state law prohibits children younger than 15 from consenting to sex.
“The Kansas court determined that the rape was irrelevant and that the child support was not owed to the rapist but rather to the child," said Mel Feit, director of the New York-based advocacy group the National Center for Men.
A California court ruled several years later that a 15-year-old boy must pay support for a child conceived with a 34-year-old neighbor who was convicted of statutory rape in the case.
State social-services agencies pursued each of those cases after the mother sought public assistance.
Arizona’s Department of Economic Security requires child-support responsibilities unless the parent seeking support has been found guilty of sexual assault, saying the intent of the rule is to ensure children – who have no control over the circumstances of their birth – receive care.
But the men’s rights activist said the scenario would not possibly be the same if the roles were reversed.
"The idea that a woman would have to send money to a man who raped her is absolutely off-the-charts ridiculous," Feit said. "It wouldn't be tolerated, and it shouldn't be tolerated."
He said it “makes no sense” to hold Olivas responsible for a sex act to which he could not legally consent.
"We're not going to hold him responsible for the sex act, so to then turn around and say we're going to hold him responsible for the child that resulted from that act is off-the-charts ridiculous," he said. "It makes no sense."
[Image via Agence France-Presse]