[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
Victims’ advocates — and decent human beings in general — are straight up dumbfounded after a judge awarded full custody to a man accused of raping a 16-year-old! Oh and there’s more… now SHE has to pay HIM child support!
According to reports, Crysta Abelseth claims she was raped at the age of 16 by John Barnes, a man almost twice her age, in Louisiana back in 2005. She says he offered to take her home after a night out at a local bar with friends, telling WBRZ:
“Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house. Once inside, he raped me on his living room couch.”
The now-32-year-old said she didn’t know Barnes before that night, and didn’t tell him that his rape resulted in a pregnancy. She added:
“Everyone assumed it [the pregnancy] was from a boyfriend, and I let them believe that.”
Crysta had a baby girl and raised her in peace — until Barnes learned some time in 2011 that he might have a daughter. She shared:
“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. They granted him 50/50 custody despite the fact that [the child] was caused by rape.”
A DNA test proved with 99.97% accuracy that Barnes is the now-teenager’s father. Abelseth maintains the act wasn’t consensual; however, it would still be illegal either way, because of the mother’s age at the time of conception.
In July 2015, Crysta pressed criminal charges against Barnes, detailing everything in the report she filed with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office. Explaining how she waited to file the police report because she misunderstood the law, she said:
“I thought if I didn’t do it the next day, there was nothing I could do about it. I went to a trauma counselor, and he said, ‘No, you have 30 years after you turn 18.’”
The investigation has been open ever since. But, according to Crysta, the case “was never assigned to a detective, and nothing was ever investigated.”
Barnes was granted custody of the child earlier this year, despite the criminal complaint. The dramatic move happened after Barnes alleged Abelseth gave her daughter a cell phone. (Seriously? What the hell was that judge thinking??)
Stacie Triche, who works for the non-profit organization Save Lives, said she’s helping the mother navigate a court system that hasn’t been on her side, telling the outlet:
“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.”
To make matters worse, Abelseth said she was ordered to pay Barnes — who, again, is her alleged rapist — child support. Triche elaborated:
“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.”
Legal experts agree. The outlet spoke to lawyers from the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LFASA) who said they’ve never seen a case like this one. Attorney Sean Cassidy with LFASA said:
“It seems pretty straight forward that not only did a crime take place, but as a result of the crime, this person should not have custody of the child.”
Abelseth admitted she’s having trouble keeping her faith in a court system that’s been seemingly withholding justice from her for the past 16 years, saying of her abuser:
“He’s well connected. 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.”
The extent of Barnes’ connections to the justice system is unclear, but he’s reportedly the owner of web company Gumbeaux Digital Branding, which lists Ponchatoula Police as a client on its website. (Ponchatoula is the second-largest city in Tangipahoa Parish.)
While Crysta may have lost the battle, the legal war isn’t over yet. She said a hearing is scheduled next month to revoke Barnes’ parental rights.
Click here if you want to help Crysta in her legal fight.
[Image via WBRZ]