A 22-year-old woman who conceived a child after she was raped has been forced to fight her rapist who is seeking visitation rights of the child.
The woman, whose identity has remained private, was raped multiple times when she was just 14 in by Jamie Melendez, then 19, according to the Boston Herald.
The woman lost her appeal to deny Melendez’ request to go to family court to argue for visitation rights of the child who is now seven.
A controversial law that was passed in Massachusetts in 2014 allows family court judges to granted convicted rapists access to the child provided that it is “in the best interest of the child”, reports Motto. And it’s not just Massachusetts, rapists can currently sue for visitation rights in 31 states across America.
If the judge grants visitation rights this means the woman would be forced to allow visits between the man who raped her and her child.
“I shouldn’t have to go to family court,” the woman told the Boston Herald. “I don’t want to go to family court with a man that raped me. I don’t want to worry that a man who raped me will come and take my daughter.”
Following DNA testing Melendez pleaded guilty to the rape in 2011 and was sentenced to 16 years probation and was ordered to pay weekly child support to the woman at the sum of $110. He previously requested visitation in 2014 and was denied by a family court judge.
The judge at the time said they felt the visitation was being used as a “bargaining chip” to lower child support payments.
The woman’s lawyer Wendy Murphy says they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Judicial Court and is also calling for changes to the current laws.
“All of this is exceedingly dangerous territory,” Murphy said. “Is this ruling going to incentivize offenders to go to family court? I think without a doubt it will.”
The case is ongoing.