A US court has caused outrage after it ordered a rape survivor to relinquish custody of her daughter and pay child support and attorney’s fees in favor of the alleged sexual aggressor.
Crysta Abelseth was sexually assaulted at the age of 16 by a 30-year-old man identified as John Barnes, who suggested they take her home after they met at a party. “Instead of taking me home, he took me to his house. When he was inside, he raped me,” he told the New York Post.
That year, the young woman did not file a lawsuit against the attacker. A pregnancy test was taken weeks after what happened and it was positive. “Everyone assumed that (the pregnancy) was from a friend and I let them believe that,” she said. Soon after, she gave birth to her baby: a girl.
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However, the man who abused her came before her when he found out the baby could be his daughter. Abelseth says that as soon as he knew, he tried to get him out of custody, resorting to a DNA test that proved 99.9% that the man was the father.
“My daughter found out about this when she was 5 years old; and when he found out he filed for custody and wanted to take it away from me,” he said.
Abelseth confirmed that a court awarded the minor joint custody “even though (the girl) was caused by rape”. Because of this, the woman filed a complaint against Barnes for the 2015 rape.
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However, he says the case was not considered as a detective was never appointed to properly investigate it. The complaint was filed with the Tangipahoa, Louisiana Township Sheriff’s Office.
The rape survivor, now 32, said she lost full custody over the allegations recorded on her cell phone in the course of her fight to get her daughter back. She also stated that the man constantly threatens her and claims to have contacts in the justice system.
“He threatened me several times and said he has ties to the justice system so you better be careful and he can take them whenever he wants. I didn’t believe him until it happened.”
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Lawyers defending Abelseth say the story both moved and outraged them. They stated that, quite apart from losing custody of their daughter, she has to pay “her abuser.”
“[She was]forced to pay alimony and her rapist’s legal fees and relinquish custody of the girl who is the product of the rape. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Stacie Triche of the nonprofit Save Lives.
Likewise, Sean Cassidy of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, Defense of Rape Survivors, pointed out that Louisiana law requires a minimum consent age of 17 if the rape cannot be proven. Crysta Abelseth was abused when she was 16.
“It seems pretty straightforward that not only was a crime committed, but that person should not have custody of the child as a result of the crime,” he said.