A Louisiana woman is seeking justice after her alleged rapist was granted full custody of her daughter.
Crysta Abelseth told WBRZ the assault took place in 2005 when she was just 16 years old. She claims she was at a bar when she met a then-30-year-old John Barnes, who offered to take her home. Abelseth, now 32, says Barnes instead took her to his residence and raped her on his living room couch. She says the attack resulted in pregnancy.
“Everybody else just assumed it was from a boyfriend, and I just let them believe that,” she explained.
Abelseth said Barnes learned about the child in 2011 and decided to pursue custody. A subsequent DNA test confirmed Barnes was the father, and he was initially granted 50 percent custody. It was a shocking decision, as the sexual encounter—even if consensual—was illegal due to Abelseth’s age at the time. Under Louisiana law, no one under 17 can legally consent to sexual intercourse.
Fast-forward to summer 2015, when Abelseth decided to press charges against Barnes, alleging simple rape. When asked why she waited so long to file a report, Abelseth said she wasn’t aware she had the option.
“I was young and I didn’t know the law at the time. I didn’t think I had any more time to do it,” she said. “I thought if I didn’t do it right after it happened—like, the next day—then there was nothing I could do about it [...] I went to that trauma counselor, and he informed me, ‘No, you have 30 years after you turn 18.’”
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office says the investigation is still open; however, Abelseth says law enforcement has refused to take any action.
“It was never assigned to any detective and nothing was ever investigated,” she said.
WBRZ confirmed that Barnes owns and operates a web branding company based in Ponchatoula; his listed clients include the Ponchatoula Police Department. Abelseth told the outlet she believes Barnes has managed to avoid criminal punishment because of his connections to the local justice system.
Earlier this year, a judge gave Barnes full custody of Abelseth’s 16-year-old daughter, after claiming the mother gave the teen a cellphone without his permission. Abelseth says she was also ordered to pay Barnes child support.
Stacie Triche, who works for the nonprofit organization Save Lives, said she is now helping Abelseth regain custody of her daughter.
“She’s been forced to pay her perpetrator,” Triche said. “She’s been forced to pay the rapist child support, she’s been forced to pay his legal fees, and she’s been forced to give up custody of this child that’s a product of the rape. It just makes no sense.”