A Louisiana woman who says she was impregnated by a rapist in 2005 has been ordered by a judge to give full custody to her abuser and also pay child support.
The case, which could be a preview of what to expect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling which gave women the right to control their reproductive decisions, was first reported by ABC affiliate WBRZ:
(Crysta) Abelseth met John Barnes in the City of Hammond back in 2005. She says he offered to take her home after a night out at a local bar with friends.
“Instead of bringing me home, he brought me to his house,” Abelseth recalled. “Once inside, he raped me on his living room couch.”
Abelseth did not know Barnes before that night, but came away from it pregnant.
In 2011, Barnes learned that he might have a daughter, went to court, and was granted 50/50 custody with Abelseth.
Four years later, in 2016, Abelseth pressed criminal rape charges against Barnes with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office. She says she didn’t do so sooner because she mistakenly thought rape charges had to be made within 24 hours of the attack:
“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.
Why has this been allowed to happen? According to Abelseth, it’s because Barnes has connections:
“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.”
Barnes owns the web company Gumbeaux Digital Branding. One of his clients is the Ponchatoula Police Department, suggesting a blatant conflict of interest that should have already been addressed. Instead, Judge Jeffrey Cashe granted custody to an alleged rapist.
Attorney Sean Cassidy of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault says he has never seen such a blatant miscarriage of justice:
“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.”
A hearing is scheduled for July at which time it is hoped a judge will revoke Barnes’ parental rights.
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