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Aug 24 2013

What a sweet couple

Hey I’ve got a great idea for a sitcom. A guy rapes a girl of 14, see, and makes her pregnant, and she has the baby and her mother has to quit her job to take care of the baby. Good so far, right? Then – this is where it gets really funny – a judge decides to give jurisdiction to family court, so the girl is stuck with him for the next sixteen years! Hilarious or what?

The rape victim doesn’t think so.

“The plaintiff, a rape victim in a state criminal matter, became pregnant in 2009 at age 14 as a result of the crime and gave birth to her attacker’s child,” the lawsuit states.

“The defendant in the state criminal proceeding, age 20 at the time of the impregnation, was convicted of rape in 2011 and was sentenced to 16 years probation. Conditions of probation include an order that he initiate proceedings in family court and comply with that court’s orders until the child reaches adulthood. The plaintiff here seeks to enjoin enforcement of so much of the state court’s order as violates her federal rights by binding her to an unwanted 16-year legal relationship with her rapist.”

H.T., who recently graduated from high school, says the order forces her to participate in unwanted court proceedings for 16 years with the man who raped her, and to spend money on legal fees.

But…um…family values?

 In June 2012, H.T. found out that Melendez was seeking visitation rights with the child.

After a family court judge ordered Melendez to pay $110 a week in child support, he Melendez asked for visitation rights, and offered to withdraw his request in exchange for not having to pay child support, according to the lawsuit.

“Melendez had no prior contact with the child and had expressed no interest in the child, but no Massachusetts law forbids the enforcement of visitation rights by a biological father who causes a child’s birth through the crime of rape,” the complaint states.

The law is an ass.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    PZ Myers

    It sounds almost…biblical.

  2. 2
    stewart

    Before I had read far enough to see that it was very real and contemporary, I thought you might have been referring to this: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=640716632613468&l=7f48994309

  3. 3
    Claire Ramsey

    Either way, perfectly legal suffering for both mother and child. Sickening.

  4. 4
    changerofbits

    Wh

  5. 5
    changerofbits

    Ack, hit submit too soon (thanks iPhone!)

    What family judge in their right mind would rule to enforce the extortion of the rapist? I would throw the ass in jail for contempt of humanity. I guess God claimed paternity for Jesus, but didn’t seem to bother him much until he was 33 or so.

  6. 6
    Ace of Sevens

    Does anyone know more background on the law here? I get that there’s no law specifically saying that convicted rapists have no parental rights if the rape results in a child, but I wouldn’t think that should be necessary. Doesn’t the child custody law say anything about character or anything else that would give a judge a good legal reason why they could deny custody if they wanted to?

    Or is the problem that while family court is very unlikely to grant custody, making this go to family court at all is a way of harassing the victim and trying to weasel out of child support? Laws that make summary judgment easier would certainly help that. If that’s the case, I’d like them to consider any sort of serious offense against the other parent or the children, not just rape. Also, giving people government-appointed attorneys for family court would be a good idea as attorneys can shield people from a lot of the emotional brunt of cases, which makes harassment tactics less effective.

  7. 7
    nathanaelnerode

    “Or is the problem that while family court is very unlikely to grant custody, making this go to family court at all is a way of harassing the victim”

    Yes. The custody law is “best interests of the child”, which obviously means “keep away from the rapist”. But the way the procedural system works here, the rapist can keep dragging her back into court for spurious reasons. She’s trying to get the probation ruling, which is the cause of the trouble, overturned.

  8. 8
    John Phillips, FCD

    The law just isn’t an ass in this case, but very very sick.

  9. 9
    Thinker

    I read this on some other site, and the rapist apologists were out in full force. According to them, obviously the 14-year-old was a Slutty McSlut-Slut who seduced him, and his age kept creeping downward until he was 18 and she was 14 and it was all so TEEN LUUUUV, and now the poor guy *just* wants to take care of his kid.

    It was disgusting, and I was horrified, and sometimes I just hate people.

  10. 10
    bcmystery

    Once again I’m reminded of something my son-in-law, a district attorney (one of the good ones) often says, the law isn’t about what’s right, it’s about who’s in charge.

  11. 11
    Jackie

    Ophelia, irl I know a girl who was the victim of statutory rape at 14. She got pregnant. The family refused to press charges because they felt that at 18. the boy was not guilty of rape, but merely made some poor choices. The girl was smitten with him, after all. He refused to pay child support or legally acknowledge paternity. When the child was 8 and the statute of limitations was up on the statutory rape charge, he sued for full custody. The judge granted it to him stating that the 14 yr old single mother had relied too much on the child’s grandparents over the years and had not created a stable enough home. He took the child he had never once had a hand in raising to another state where she lives with him today. The judge that made that decision is a woman.

    That’s the state of the world we live in. :(

  12. 12
    onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork

    Unfortunately, the paradigm shift in family law and child welfare is swinging from ‘best interests of the child’ to ‘parent’s rights.’ I dealt with that frequently in my most recent job, where I worked in visitation, because Maryland is currently a state very much favoring the parent’s rights perspective. Which meant I dealt with the court frequently granting visitation to fathers who had sexually abused their children, or favoring the batterer in domestic violence cases, etc. The tricky part is, even in cases where sexual abuse had been absolutely proven, parents still had the right to visit, have contact with, and even press for custody, unless it could be absolutely proven that such contact would be explicitly harmful to the child.* (hence the parent’s rights v. best interests argument–the assumption is that parents have a natural, inalienable right to raise their children and the burden of proof now rests on the child to prove otherwise)

    This is not something that I predict will change anytime soon–for example, current research in child welfare supports ‘family-centered practice’ and pushes reunification/family pres,** which is just one of the factors that is influencing the current shift towards parent’s rights in all aspects of family law. These things move incredibly slowly; I do think that, in time, there will be a move back towards best interests of the child, but until that happens, the parent’s rights perspective is going to influence all aspects of family law and child welfare.

    Historically, this pendulum of best interests vs. parent’s rights keeps swinging back and forth–look at the move from orphanages to foster care to the current favoring of family preservation–and as it swings it impacts and is impacted by multiple other aspects of society, family law just being one particular example. (Not to mention all the intersections of other societal trends–sexism, classism, MRA’s, Dominionists and the Christian right, etc, etc, ad nauseum.)

    tl;dr***: this is a trend that is likely to get worse before it gets better; I would honestly not be surprised that it’s a trend that won’t change until something monumental occurs, like a Supreme Court case or (more likely, unfortunately), a lawsuit springing from some eminently preventable tragedy. (See things like LaShawn v. Fenty or L.J. v. Massinga)

    *to be fair, there is research indicating that in *some* cases, rehabilitation of the sexual abuser is possible, and reunification therapy is generally favored in those cases, but in my experience, the government takes these findings and then extrapolates that they apply in ALL cases of sexual abuse/abuse in general, which is complete and utter bullshit.

    **family preservation: the practice of keeping abused children in the home and working with parents to resolve the abuse or neglect rather than removing the child from the home and placing them in foster care until problems are resolved. *Intended* to be used in cases where it is deemed no significant safety risk exists to keeping the children in the home–this does not always occur.

    ***Apologies, this is my bailiwick and I could write a whole essay on the inherent problems in the family law and child welfare system and all the myriad of ways the government and the legal system *miss the fucking point* when they try to legislate ‘fixing’ people and families.

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