Sexual assault sufferer should pay youngster assist to assailants with a purpose to change California legislation

April 5, 2012 ?? – Crystal Harris, a San Diego woman who accused her husband Shawn Harris of sexually abusing her and then was forced to pay him alimony before he was convicted, said her marriage was faltering as he repeated threatened to kill her.

“I believed his threat,” she said. “I started living in this strange world that just felt like I was calling it a House of Secrets.”

Now her story could change California state law.

Crystal Harris, 39, and her now ex-husband Shawn Harris, 40, were college sweethearts. They married in 1996. She said there have been isolated incidents of domestic violence over the years and then in 2008 Shawn sexually assaulted her while her two sons were upstairs. She managed to record the attack with a tape recorder that she hid in her drawer. The audio recording, though muted, featured Crystal pleading with her husband saying, “I don’t want to be raped” and “You’re hurting my neck.”

“I made a note of where the record button was in my head,” she said. “So, you know, I talk to Shawn and I just hit it and then I just close the drawer.”

Despite Shawn Harris’ domestic violence record and the fact that he was awaiting separate rape allegations trial during her divorce proceedings, Family Court Justice Gregory Pollack ordered Crystal Harris to pay her husband $ 1,000 a month, in part because of her was the family breadwinner, a financial advisor who makes about $ 120,000 a year while her husband stayed home with the children. Before the birth of their sons, Shawn Harris had worked as a used car salesman.

“The computer came up with a figure of $ 3,000 a month that I was supposed to be paying Shawn, but the judge cut that down to $ 1,000 a month,” said Crystal Harris. “That’s what I call the rape discount because he thought he was doing me a big favor.”

But Pollack saw it differently and said in court: “It’s a long-term marriage. He’s a father who stays at home … how can you say that there should be no support without being sexist?” He even suggested that Shawn Harris get more money since he couldn’t be hired.

“He’s on bail for rape and I’m not sure a car salesman would hire someone like that,” Pollack said in court.

“It’s not about how much someone earns. It’s about being the victim of a crime, ”said Crystal Harris.

Pollack declined the “Nightline” interview request. In a statement, a spokesman told Nightline that “any incumbent judge cannot discuss the details of an open trial procedure.”

In the criminal case, Shawn Harris alleged that the sex was consensual and said that both he and Crystal screamed and screamed to “get our adrenaline pumping during sex”. The tape helped convict him of forced oral sex. The other two charges he faced – spousal violent rape and sodomy – resulted in a jury being hanged and the district attorney decided not to try the case again. Shawn Harris could be released from Donovan State Prison in 2014.

Crystal Harris said she believed the tape recording was key to a conviction.

“Without this tape recording, we would not have been charged,” said Crystal Harris. “And I would probably be dead today.”

But before that in the family court, before the criminal trial, the judge said Harris was still looking for part of her husband’s legal fees for the divorce case. She agreed in a settlement to pay $ 47,000 of Shawn’s legal fees.

Michele Hagan, a legal analyst and former assistant prosecutor who has followed up on domestic violence cases, said she told the judge he was “completely wrong”.

“This traumatizes her even more by tying her to her perpetrator and having to pay him some money,” she said. “What happened is that thugs are using the family court to further molest their victims.”

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said that while there is already a law in place banning child support for those convicted of attempting to murder their spouse, it should also include those charged with violent sexual assault were convicted.

“I think it’s about putting common sense in the books,” said Dumanis. “We see the law needs to be changed and we will make sure it is changed.”

Crystal Harris went public with her story in the hope that California law would be passed. MP Toni Atkins introduced legislation that would discourage any victim of violent sex crimes committed by a spouse from paying child support to the violent ex-spouse.

Last month, Harris shared her story in front of the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee. The bipartisan committee passed the bill with a dissenting vote from MP Bob Wieckowski.

“I understand that it is an unpopular position and my condolences go to Ms. Harris,” Wieckowski told the judiciary committee. “But bad facts can have dire consequences in law, and I am seriously concerned about adding those crimes.”

The bill is sent to the assembly for discussion. If it is passed, it will be forwarded to the regional senate.

Most rape victims are safe from the public, but Crystal Harris said she needed to step out of the shadows.

“It takes a real person, a real victim, to show their case, show their face and lobby and enforce the law step by step,” said Crystal Harris. “It could happen to another woman.”

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