EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – For the second time this week, Scarsdale Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) has sent a bill to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to be signed into law.
This piece of legislatione would restrict the custody and visitation rights of convicted rapists whose attacks lead to pregnancies. Cuomo must take action on the bill before midnight Sept. 28.
Paulin said the legislation would increase the rights of sexual assault victims that become pregnant. She added while many would terminate the pregnancies, there are countless victims who choose not to, and the law currently doesn't protect them.
The bill forces courts to presume it is not in the best interest of a child to be placed in the custody of a person who has been convicted of sexual assault that resulted in the conception of said child. Currently, there is no law addressing custody and visitation rights in these cases.
“Imagine the horror of suffering sexual abuse. Now imagine the trauma that would result if you found out you were pregnant as a result of this attack,” she said. “There are many women who elect to see their pregnancy through, and the law does not sufficiently protect these women from their attackers.”
According to Paulin, the bill partially was inspired by Shauna Prewitt, a Missouri woman that was attacked and impregnated when she was 21. Her attacker later filed for custody of the child, and the two battled in court for custody.
“Like Missouri, the law in New York doesn't restrict the attacker’s visitation or custody rights,” she said. “The bottom line, right now, is that if a woman is attacked and a child is a result of that attack then the possibility exists that she would be forced to raise her child with the person who abused her.”
Presently, if a woman chooses to put the baby up for adoption, any person convicted of first-degree rape loses their right to be notified. This bill would extend that to those convicted of other sexual assaults.
“Sex offenders often threaten their victims with filing a custody petition in order to discourage them from pressing charges,” Paulin said. “These women have suffered enough, I want this loophole closed.”