OUTRAGE after judge grants woman's alleged rapist custody of their child and CHILD SUPPORT FOR HIM!
This article contains information about sexual assault that could be traumatic for some readers. Discretion is advised.
HAMMOND, LOUISIANA: In a bizarre ruling, a judge has given a woman's alleged abuser full custody of her child and even ordered the woman to pay child support. Judge Jeffrey Cashe has awarded 32-year-old Crysta Abelseth's abuser John Barnes, 46, full custody while also forcing Abelseth to pay child support to her alleged rapist, as reported by WBRZ's investigation team. Despite filing a sexual assault report against Barnes in 2015 and fiercely fighting to have her child in her care, Abelseth's custody rights over her 16-year-old were revoked last month over an allegation by Barnes that she bought a cellphone for their daughter, WBRZ reported. Barnes has not yet been charged with any crimes in relation to the allegations filed by Abelseth seven years ago.
The incident allegedly happened in 2005, when Abelseth met John Barnes in the City of Hammond. She says he offered to take her home after a night out at a local restaurant with friends. Abelseth told the outlet, "Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house." "Once inside, he raped me on his living room couch," she added. Abelseth did not know Barnes before that night but came away from it pregnant. Overcome by trauma and unsure what to do, Abelseth let friends and relatives believe that the pregnancy was instead the result of a relationship she had at the time. "Everyone assumed it [the pregnancy] was from a boyfriend, and I let them believe that," Abelseth recalled.
Abelseth gave birth to a healthy girl and moved on with her life - until her alleged abuser found out about their then-five-year-old daughter in 2010. Barnes, the owner of a digital branding site, then began a legal battle against Abelseth to obtain custody rights. "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."
Abelseth pressed criminal charges against Barnes in July 2015. She filed a report with Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office and detailed everything that was done to her. Abelseth said she waited to file the police report because she did not know the law.
"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.'" From 2015 until now, nothing has happened with the report. The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office says an investigation is still open. "It was never assigned to a detective, and nothing was ever investigated," according to Abelseth.
A DNA test is part of court documents that prove with 99.97% accuracy that John Barnes is the child's father. Barnes was 30 years old and Abelseth 16 at the time of conception. The act was illegal at the time, even if it were consensual; Abelseth maintains it never was. Even if it was consensual, it would still be classified as statutory rape - as the age of consent in Louisiana is 17. Court records in the Tangipahoa Parish courthouse show Barnes admitted he is the biological father of the child.
Save Lives advocate Stacie Triche has helped Abelseth navigate the legal system as she tries to regain custody of her child. "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," she told WBRZ.
"She's been forced to pay her perpetrator,' Triche said of Judge Cashe's ruling. '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." Abelseth has appealed Judge Cashe's decision and has a court hearing scheduled for July.