Woman Who Was Allegedly Raped As Teen Loses Custody Of Child to Accused Rapist, Has To Pay Child Support

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A Louisiana woman said a court gave temporary custody of her daughter to the man who raped her when she was 16, a recent development in a yearslong legal battle that advocates say should never have happened.

Crysta Abelseth, 32, claims she was raped by John Barnes when she was under the age of consent in Louisiana, and he was 30. The assault resulted in Abelseth becoming pregnant with her now teenage daughter, she said.

Abseleth said Barnes, who has been confirmed through a paternity test to be the child’s biological father, was given sole custody of her daughter earlier this year amid a court battle that dates back to 2011. She was ordered to pay him child support, court records show.

Initially, both had shared custody of the child, who is 15 years old today.

“It’s been consuming my life. It has just drained me emotionally, financially,” Abelseth said. “I’m just exhausted. My quality of life has been minimal, because of having to ‘co-parent’ with this man who raped me and having to see him and speak with him. Anytime she has an event, he’s there. It was very difficult.”

An attorney for Barnes did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Barnes, in an email, directed a reporter to court documents about the case. In court documents, Barnes has denied that he committed felony rape.

Abelseth told WBRZ, a local station in Baton Rouge that first reported her story, that Barnes raped her after offering to take her home following a night out with friends in 2005. She was under the legal age of consent in Louisiana, which is 17. She told the station that she let family and friends believe a boyfriend had impregnated her.

Abelseth said that she reported the rape to police in July 2015, after meeting with a trauma counselor who informed her that she was still within her right to pursue charges against Barnes. She said law enforcement has not acted on the complaint since.

On Thursday, the Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office said in a statement to WBRZ that the initial complaint “never made it through the proper channels within the department to be assigned for investigation. Therefore, our department absolutely dropped the ball, and we simply must own our mistake.”

“The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office has reviewed and identified the breakdown in operations relating to the initial complaint filed by the complainant,” Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said in the statement. “Since that time, enhancements to department procedures have been implemented and measures put in place to ensure reports from the public never go overlooked or mishandled. Especially those cases alleging criminal acts against our youth.”

The department also said Abelseth did not follow up on the matter until April of this year, which Abelseth denies.

“I was calling and leaving messages and wasn’t getting responses,” she said.

The case has now been turned over to the local district attorney’s office, the sheriff’s department said in the statement. No charges have been filed.

Neither the Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office nor Scott Perrilloux, the district attorney for Louisiana’s 21st District, responded to multiple requests for comment on Abelseth’s case.

In court documents, Abelseth has alleged that Barnes has been physically, mentally, and sexually abusive toward their child.