By Suyin Haynes
December 8, 2016
MOTTO
Suyin Haynes is an Associate Audience Editor for TIME.

A woman who conceived a child after being raped is facing a legal battle with her rapist, after a ruling allowed him to proceed with a claim for child visitation rights.

The woman, now 22 and who wants her identity to remain secret, was raped by Jamie Melendez seven years ago, the Boston Herald reports. Her appeal against Melendez’s request to go to family court to argue for visitation rights to the child was denied by the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.

This means that the woman could be forced to allow visits from her rapist to the child, following a decision from family court judges. In 2014, a controversial law was passed in Massachusetts that gives family court judges powers to grant a convicted rapist the right to visit the child conceived by his victim, provided that “visitation is in the best interest of the child”.

“I shouldn’t have to go to family court,” the woman said. “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.” Wendy Murphy, the woman’s attorney, told the Herald that she and her client would be appealing the decision to the Supreme Judicial Court. Murphy said that the case was “exceedingly dangerous territory” and warned that it could incentivize other offenders to carry out similar courses of legal action.

Murphy said the woman was 14 years old when she met Melendez — then aged 20 — who raped her multiple times in 2009, resulting in her pregnancy. Melendez pleaded guilty in September 2011 and was sentenced to 16 years on probation. He was also ordered to pay weekly child support to the woman at the sum of $110 by a family court proceeding in 2012.

His previous attempt to gain visitation rights to the child was denied by a family court judge in 2014.

[Boston Herald]

Write to Suyin Haynes at suyin.haynes@time.com.

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