no sense | 

Mum ordered to share custody of daughter and pay child support to alleged rapist

“They granted him 50/50 custody despite the fact that [the child] was caused by rape,” Abelseth said.
Crysta Abelseth (pictured at right alongside daughter she's having to give up)

Crysta Abelseth (pictured at right alongside daughter she's having to give up)

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A Louisiana mother has been ordered to give full custody of her daughter and pay child support to a man who allegedly raped her when she was aged 16.

In 2005, Crysta Abelseth accepted a ride home from John Barnes, who was 30 at the time and is now 46, after her friend decided to leave dinner early.

“Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house. Once inside, he raped me on his couch,” Abelseth (now 32) told Hammond local news station WBRZ's investigative team.

When she realised she was pregnant, Abelseth pretended to friends and relatives that it was 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 told WBRZ.

Abelseth later gave birth to a baby girl and had moved on with her life until her alleged abuser found out about their then-five-year-old daughter in 2010.

Barnes 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 added.

Despite later filing a sexual assault report against Barnes in 2015, and fiercely fighting to have her child in her care, Abelseth's custody rights over the 16-year-old were revoked last month.

“They granted him 50/50 custody despite the fact that [the child] was caused by rape,” Abelseth said.

John Barnes

John Barnes

This followed an allegation by Barnes that she had bought a cell phone for their daughter.

Judge Jeffrey Cashe also forced Abelseth to pay child support to her alleged rapist, in what has been branded an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

Barnes, the owner of a digital branding site whose company's client list includes law enforcement agencies, has not yet been charged with any crimes in relation to the allegations filed by Abelseth seven years ago.

Abelseth had said she didn't think she could file a criminal complaint against Barnes after the day of the assault.

She said she only found out that the statute of limitations would allow her to do so through a trauma counsellor.

“I thought if I didn't do it the next day, there was nothing I could do about it,” Abelseth told WBRZ.

“I went to a trauma counsellor, and he said, 'No, you have 30 years after you turn 18’.”

Records obtained by WBRZ show that a DNA test proved Barnes was the father of the child. At the time of conception, Barnes and Abelseth were 30 and 16, respectively.

Speaking to the WBRZ, Abelseth claimed she has been threatened by Barnes, who is “well connected”.

She believes that a sexual assault report she filed against him with Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office has not been thoroughly investigated.

“It was never assigned to a detective, and nothing was ever investigated, ”Abelseth alleged.

Even though Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office said the investigation is still open, Barnes was granted full custody of the child.

And although Barnes has admitted he is the biological father of his child with Abelseth, he has not been charged in connection with her allegations of rape. Neither has he been prosecuted for statutory rape.

As the age of consent in Louisiana is 17, the sexual encounter even if it was consensual, which Abelseth insists it was not, would still be classified as statutory rape.

“He's well connected,” Abelseth alleged. “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 sheriff's department told WBRZ that the investigation into Abelseth's claims was open and ongoing - but has not moved since 2015.

Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault attorney Sean Cassidy told WBRZ he had never come across a case like this.

“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,” he told the outlet.

Save Lives advocate Stacie Triche, who has helped Abelseth navigate the legal system as she tries to regain custody of her child, added: "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's been forced to pay her perpetrator,” Triche added. “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.


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