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Cuomo signs bills to protect victims

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed two bills that will further shield children from sexual offenders and protect victims of domestic violence.

The first bill restricts the parental rights of convicted sexual offenders when a child is born as a result of sexual assault. The second bill gives certain employees of local and state correctional facilities access to the State Order of Protection Registry so they can track which inmates should not come into contact with the victims of their crime.

Current law regarding the custody and visitation rights of sexual offenders does not explicitly restrict rights when the child is conceived as a result of the perpetrator’s assault. Only a person convicted of first-degree forcible rape that results in conception has no right to be notified of an adoption or social services proceeding. Consequently, these perpetrators may file or threaten to file petitions of visitation and custody in order to dissuade their victims from seeking criminal charges against them.

The new law expands protections under existing law for children who were conceived as a result of rape in the first or second degree, course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree, predatory sexual assault, or predatory sexual assault against a child. The measure amends the Domestic Relations Law and Social Services Law to protect both a mother and child from a convicted sexual offender.

Current law under the other bill signed by Cuomo requires the state police superintendent to create and maintain the registry, including all orders of protection and warrants issued in domestic violence cases. Access to this registry, however, is limited to courts and law enforcement officers. Access to the registry will allow officials to better protect the victims involved in domestic violence cases, and the community at large, when considering programming and release plans of inmates.