A Louisiana woman was recently ordered to give up custody of her daughter to her alleged rapist and then pay child support.
Crysta Abelseth, now 32, was allegedly raped at age 16 by John Barnes, a man nearly twice her age who she had never previously met, after accepting a ride home from him after a night out at a restaurant with friends, and the sexual assault resulted in a pregnancy, reported WBRZ-TV.
"Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house," Abelseth recalled. "Once inside, he raped me on his living room couch."
Abelseth said other people assumed a boyfriend was the father and she never corrected them, but sometime in 2011 Barnes learned that he might have a daughter and pursued custody.
"When my daughter was five years old, he found out about her, and once he found out about her, he pursued custody and wanted to take her away from me," Abelseth said. "They granted him 50/50 custody despite the fact that [the child] was caused by rape."
A DNA test showed Barnes was almost certainly the father, despite the fact that he had been 30 and Abseleth was younger than the age of consent when he assaulted her, and she eventually pressed criminal charges against him in 2015 because she didn't previously understand how the law worked.
"I thought if I didn't do it the next day, there was nothing I could do about it," Abelseth said. "I went to a trauma counselor, and he said, 'No, you have 30 years after you turn 18.'"
The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office said that investigation remained open seven years later, and Abelseth said it was never even assigned to a detective. She claimed that Barnes had law enforcement connections that allowed him to escape accountability and gain full custody several weeks ago over allegations that she gave her teenage daughter a cell phone.
"He's well connected," Abelseth said. "He's threatened me multiple times, saying he has connections in the justice system, so I better be careful and he can take her away anytime he wants to. I didn't believe him until it happened."
Stacie Triche, of the non-profit organization Save Lives, started helping Abelseth with her legal fight after Barnes challenged her custodial rights, and she said it's hard to understand why a judge would give Barnes full custody and force Abelseth to pay child support to her rapist.
"When I found out she was a rape victim, and this rapist could potentially get full custody, that's when I stepped in and said something has to be done about this," Triche said. "She's been forced to pay her perpetrator, forced to pay her rapist child support and legal fees and give up custody of the child that's a product of the rape. It makes no sense."
Judge Jeffrey Cashe granted Barnes custody, but an employee in his office said judicial canons would prevent him from explaining the decision, which was placed under seal, and an attorney from the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LFASA) said the decision was egregious.
"It seems pretty straightforward that not only did a crime take place, but as a result of the crime, this person should not have custody of the child," said LFASA attorney Sean Cassidy.
Rape victim ordered to pay her abuser child support - WBRZ Investigative Unit www.youtube.com
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