Analyn Megison Stopped Her Alleged Rapist from Winning Child Custody: 'You Can't Take My Daughter'

Analyn Megison chose to keep the child she carried after being raped. But when her attacker demanded parental rights, she fought him in court — and soon found a way to help other women just like her

Analyn Meginson with her daughter Alarbie near their home in Scottsdale, AZ on June 1st, 2022. Photographer: Cassidy Araiza Photo Assistant: Alfonso Fonseca Hair and Makeup: Linda Wagner
Analyn and Alaraby near their home in Phoenix. Photo: Cassidy Araiza

When the man who Analyn Megison says violently raped her in her Baton Rouge apartment in 2003 demanded full custody of her beloved then-5-year-old daughter, Alaraby — born as a result of the alleged attack — she knew what needed to be done.

"I didn't have time to get scared after the initial shock," recalls Megison in this week's issue of PEOPLE, describing that moment when a process server handed her an envelope containing her attacker's petition for custody. "I thought, 'I'm going to fight like hell to keep him away from my girl. You can't take my daughter.'"

Megison has been fighting for herself and for other women facing the possibility of co-parenting with their rapists ever since.

At the time, the custody petition by Megison's attacker, who was never prosecuted for rape and was within his rights to ask for custody of the child, might have been approved by the Florida courts.

But Megison persuaded the Pinellas County, Florida, family court judge overseeing the case to review the police reports detailing his violent behavior, notes from a rape crisis center that she turned to, along with her medical records. Much to her relief, in 2012, the judge denied his petition and awarded her sole custody of the little girl.

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"As good as it felt to win, all I could think about is all the other women like me out there who are going through this," says the 48-year-old mother of three, now living in Phoenix and working as a stockbroker. "I had a responsibility to help them."

Analyn Meginson with her children Justin and Alarbie near their home in Scottsdale, AZ on June 1st, 2022. Photographer: Cassidy Araiza Photo Assistant: Alfonso Fonseca Hair and Makeup: Linda Wagner
Cassidy Araiza

So Megison kept fighting.

Within months, the Florida State University College of Law graduate was using her legal training to help draft legislation that would deny parental rights to fathers without requiring a criminal conviction for rape.

The new law — passed by the Florida state legislature with bipartisan support in 2013 — shifted the burden of proof required by a mother who accuses her child's father of rape in family court.

Instead of needing to prove guilt by the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard used in criminal cases, family court judges could now use the "clear and convincing evidence" standard used in other civil cases, such as custody hearings involving child abuse.

"It felt amazing to know that I've had a chance to make something good out of what happened to me," Megison tells PEOPLE. "It gives so many rape survivors their power back."

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The successful passing of the Florida law inspired Megison to keep working to help women — and state legislatures — around the United States. Two years after her initial victory in Florida, the federal Rape Survivor Child Custody Act was passed in 2015.

Today, 32 other states, most recently Arizona in 2021, have begun using the "clear and convincing evidence" legal standard that helped Megison win her own custody case.

"I've accomplished some things," says Megison, who has counseled hundreds of sexual assault victims over the years, "but there's so much left to do."

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