Gov. Peter Shumlin signed House bill 88 into law on Wednesday, June 18. The law gives victims of sexual assaults permanent sole custody of a child who was conceived as a result of a sexual assault. Vermont in turn became the 20th state to pass legislation denying parental rights to rapists.
What is now law began as a classroom discussion at Brattleboro Union High School two years ago.
Blackadar and Shannakay Nichols were in Tim Kipp’s elections and government class when they first heard that there was no law protecting the parental rights of sexual assault victims in Vermont. Kipp posed the question of why Vermont had no such law, and a constructive, mock legislative conversation ensued. But Blackadar didn’t stop there; she took the issue and base argument developed in the classroom to local Rep. Ann Manwaring, a family friend, and the classroom question began to take flight as a legislative priority.
Manwaring took the framework for what would become bill 88 to legislative council and found sponsors for it, and Blackadar continued her push for the bill by testifying before the Legislature. “That experience was incredible,” said Blackadar. “I was so excited and nervous, but they were all very attentive, and liked what I had to say, and it gave me a good look into how democracy works in Vermont.”
The legislation would need to be taken to the judiciary committee for review before it could be put up for a vote and in a busy 2013 session, the bill had to be tabled until this year. Once reviewed and given the green light, the bill made its way into the Vermont law books, and for Blackadar, the idea of changing her state and helping women came to fruition.
“I believe Vermont is the greatest state in the country, and for women in this country, there are some things that should have been taken care of a long time ago,” said Blackadar. “The fact that so few states have this law is very concerning to me.”
While Blackadar said that she has never met anyone who has been affected by this law, before or after its signing, she takes pride in knowing that she has helped create a form of protection for those who may be put in such a scenario.
“This isn’t the first school issue I’ve gotten involved with,” said Manwaring, “but when kids come up with something like this, it’s big in my world and I will take it as far as I can.”
Blackadar is currently attending Community College of Vermont, and intends to transfer to Vermont Technical College to complete a nursing degree. But Blackadar also has future political ambitions.
“It was incredible,” said Blackadar. “I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from it and it showed me that an individual can have a lot of say in their democratic government. I hope people see that two 17-year-old girls took inspiration, went with it, and made a better community out of their state. So when people think they don’t have a say, they need to look at themselves. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. It’s not going to get done in a month, but you have to stick with it.”
Manwaring believes that Blackadar has a future in politics, and has become one of her biggest fans.
“I feel everyone needs to have an invested interest in their government,” said Manwaring, “and step up to the plate for something they care about. My job as a legislator is to help them any way I can.
“I can’t wait for Stacy to get old enough to plant her flag somewhere.”