Adoption law changes mean victory for survivors

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – An amendment in Pennsylvania’s adoption laws take effect this week, it’s a step in the right direction for survivors of rape and domestic abuse.

In broad strokes, the change allows survivors of rape who have been impregnated an easier road to terminating their assailant’s parental rights.

When you look closer, it’s another domino that’s fallen toward empowering survivors.

Carol Shoener, with the Women’s Resource Center, said the case marked a victory for all of the victims that reach out to them.

“Just because someone is a survivor of abuse, just because someone is a victim of abuse does not mean that they are any less than.”

Changes signed into law stem from a lengthy legal battle of a former Scranton woman. Raped and impregnated by her stepfather, growing up, she looked to get sole custody.

“Using the facts of her case, and I partnered with a law firm. And we took the case for being able to win on different grounds of superior level but then also working with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape were able to change the law.”

Judith Lewis with the ‘Barbara J. Hart Justice Project’ marked the victory, but has seen time and time again the difficulty for domestic abuse survivors in the courts.

“Unfortunately, there are so many barriers within the legal system, whether we look at the civil system or the criminal system, regarding how the courts, treat survivors of domestic and sexual violence so oftentimes in lifting and responding.”

Changes in the adoption act that Shoener cites as common sense are only the beginning.

“It puts us one step closer, I think, to understand what’s happening to survivors of domestic sexual violence, intimate partner violence. That brings us one step closer to responding to the need.” . . . “We can get systems to change done. That will have a ripple effect. You know that’s going to carry on for generations.”

The goal is to widen that margin so that fit parents escaping domestic situation can take control over their lives and their children–all without having to lean on other support or the courts.

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