14-Year-Old Rape Victim Forced to Share Parental Rights with Attacker

by Melanie Mignucci

Trigger Warning: This post discusses the sexual assault of a minor.

In a new segment called “This Sucks,” BUST presents this horrific news story, hot off the press:

A Massachusetts minor was only 14 when 20-year-old Jamie Melendez raped and impregnated her. As if that weren’t horrific enough, it turns out that Melendez has sued for visitation rights with the child, rights which would force the victim into a 16-year relationship with her attacker.

Astonishingly, he offered to drop his contest for paternal rights if his $110 weekly child support payments were waived. 

What is clearly just a legalistic ploy to get out of paying child support (which is already considerably cheaper than rotting in prison, which Melendez, sentenced to 16 years probation, will not do) has forced the victim, a recent high school graduate, to pay staggering legal fees and revisit the emotional trauma of her attack. 

The victim, named only as H.T., and her family have countersued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in order to void her “unwanted legal relationship” with her attacker, putting her right to liberty above the right of her convicted rapist to see the child.

No law in Massachusetts forbids a rapist from being the legal father of the child born of that rape. The sentencing judge in the state criminal court denied the victim’s request to have Melendez pay criminal restitution rather than child support and refused to release her from any legal proceedings involving her rapist.

Instead, the criminal court foisted her case onto the state’s family court, which then authorized the legal paternity of Melendez over the child and dragged the victim into costly and annoying (not to mention traumatizing) legal proceedings. Her involvement in family court not only prolongs her case and increases her already staggering legal fees, but it could lead to her losing custody of the child. “Even if the family court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor on issues currently in dispute, […] the plaintiff will suffer harm from the constant threat of new issues arising in family court until her child reaches adulthood, including, for example, efforts by the criminal defendant to seek to modify child support orders and enforce his parental rights at the trial court level and on appeal,” says the official complaint made by the victim.

The sheer level of bureaucracy involved is mind-boggling, and offends pretty much everyone’s sense of justice.

So… this sucks!

Thanks to Alternet

Photo of Boston, MA, via National Geographic

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