A 22-year-old rape victim was impregnated during a sexual assault when she was just 14 years old. She is now fighting in court to prevent the possibility of being ordered to co-parent with her rapist. Jamie Melendez petitioned a Massachusetts court for visitation rights to his daughter seven years after the crime which prompted her conception occurred.
Jamie Melendez, now 27, was found guilty of statutory rape but was not sentenced to spend any time behind bars. Melendez was instead given 16 years of probation, the Daily Mail reports.
The victim's attorney filed a motion in appeals court to have Melendez's visitation request quashed, but it was rejected. A three-judge panel upheld the rapist's right to petition the court to visit the child he fathered. In Massachusetts, a convicted rapist can be granted parental rights if a judge determines such contact is in the minor's best interest, Fox News reports.
"She [the victim] is terrified that this new ruling means her rapist will soon be taking her child on visits as a way of ramping up the pressure to revoke the order requiring him to pay for the consequences of his crime," Wendy Murphy, the victim's attorney, said.
The rapist knew his victim. He met her before the sexual assault through a friend of her older sister's. The victim told the court Melendez pressured her into sex four separate times when she was only in the eighth grade. He was arrested in 2009 and initially denied paternity claims in an attempt to escape rape charges. DNA tests ordered by the prosecutors assigned to the case ultimately determined he was indeed the biological father of the young teen's baby.
The unnamed victim became pregnant from one of the attacks and gave birth to a baby girl in 2010. In 2011, Jamie Melendez confessed to four counts of statutory rape. The judge determined allowing the attacker to walk free would permit him to work and pay child support.
The baby girl, now six, reportedly receives $110 per week in child support. Jamie Melendez has never met the little girl. In 2012, he petitioned the court for visitation rights and reportedly stated he deserves to see the child because he is paying child support.
A judge previously denied a petition for visitation upon determining Melendez's motives to have visitation with the little girl were not sincere. The judge reportedly felt the confessed rapist was only trying to secure parental privileges in an effort to deter the rape victim from demanding the court-ordered child support payments.
Murphy said it is fairly common for rapists to use visitation petitions as a tool to get their victims to agree to drop child support requests. The rape victim has now been forced to face her attacker in family court numerous times. Melendez is entitled to return to court as many times as he would like to again seek parental rights until the little girl turns 18.
Jamie Melendez stopped paying child support in June. So far, the court has not forced continued payment. The rapist spent three months behind bars for violating the terms of his probation after he skipped visits with the officer assigned to his case. Murphy is attempting to have the case removed from family court in an effort to shield the rape victim from having to repeatedly come face-to-face with her attacker.
After Melendez was sentenced on rape charges, the child custody case was turned over to family court. The victim's attorney has argued the parental rights case should not be treated the same as cases involving divorce or otherwise consenting partners.
Murphy has asked to have Melendez pay the victim criminal restitution to help defray the cost of raising a child conceived from rape instead of paying her child support. The victim has deemed the ongoing parental rights case as a being a "second rape."
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