A Louisiana woman who says she was impregnated during a sexual assault as a teenager lost custody of her daughter to her alleged abuser, ABC affiliate WBRZ reported. A judge has also ordered her to pay child support.
A 16-year-old Crysta Abelseth met John Barnes, then 30, in 2005 at a bar in the City of Hammond. He offered to give her a ride home.
“Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house,” Abelseth told WBRZ. “Once inside, he raped me on his living room couch.”
Abelseth, now 32, said she became pregnant after the attack. She said most people assumed that the child belonged to her boyfriend at the time.
“ ... And I let them believe that,” Abelseth told the news station.
She went on to give birth to a baby girl and started to rebuild her life. But in 2011, when Abelseth’s daughter was 5 years old, Barnes found out he might have a child and pursued custody. Abelseth said Barnes received 50/50 custody at the time.
WBRZ reported that court records show that a DNA test was performed that proved Barnes was the father. But, even if the sexual encounter that occurred between the two had been consensual — and Abelseth maintains it was not — it would have been illegal in Louisiana, because the age of consent in the state is 17.
In 2015, Abelseth learned that she was still able to report the rape.
“I thought if I didn’t [report Barnes] the next day, there was nothing I could do about it,” she told the local news outlet. “I went to a trauma counselor, and he said, ‘No, you have 30 years after you turn 18.’”
That same year, Abelseth pressed criminal charges against Barnes for rape with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the case is still open. Abelseth said since filing the report nearly a decade ago, nothing has happened.
“It was never assigned to a detective, and nothing was ever investigated,” Abelseth told WBRZ.
This unfortunately is not rare. Three out of four sexual assaults are not reported to police. According to RAINN, for every 1,000 instances of rape, only 13 are referred to prosecutors. And only seven cases lead to a felony conviction.
A judge granted Barnes full custody of their daughter this year after he alleged Abelseth gave the teenager a cellphone, according to WBRZ.
Court records in connection with the case were inexplicably sealed, the outlet reported.
“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,” she recalled. “I didn’t believe him until it happened.”
WBRZ also reported that Barnes’ business Gumbeaux Digital Branding lists the Ponchatoula Police Department, which is located in Tangipahoa Parish, as a client. As of Wednesday, the department’s name is not featured on the business’s site. The site also seems to be under construction, according to a default page that appears when one clicks on the option for a free quote.
Less than 24 hours after Abelseth’s interview with WBRZ on Monday, District Attorney Scott Perrilloux confirmed he is reviewing the case.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.