DA Pushes For New Law To Protect Spousal Assault Victims

Shawn Harris Convicted In Sexual Assault Of Former Wife Crystal Harris

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is pushing for changes after a 10News I-Team investigation revealed a loophole in California law that can force assault victims to pay their attacker.

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Carlsbad resident Crystal Harris was a victim and said she was raped.

However, the next time she's victimized, she said it won’t be physical; it will be financial, and it will happen when the man who sexually assaulted her -- her ex-husband -- gets out of prison.

"He wanted to have sex and I said no," Crystal Harris said as she described her assault. "He kept saying this is not up for negotiation. When I finally realized that I had no choice, I mean, he was pushing my head down; I finally talked him into letting me go to the bathroom. I realize I've got that tape recorder not far from where we are right now."

The entire assault was caught on tape and what it captured was enough to convict Shawn Harris of a felony -- forced oral copulation.

However, it wasn't enough to keep him out of his now ex-wife's pockets, as Crystal Harris has to pay him spousal support.

Crystal Harris was the breadwinner, earning a six-figure salary, while Shawn Harris was unemployed.

Vista Judge Gregory Pollock oversaw the Harris' divorce and was perfectly within California law when he ordered Crystal to pay Shawn $1,000 a month once he was released from prison.

"I can't look at a 12-year marriage where one side is making $400 a month, the other side is making over $11,000 and say no spousal support," Pollock said in court. "That would be an abuse of discretion."

"It makes me feel victimized all over again that I should have to pay a dime to this man who has turned my life upside down," Crystal Harris said.

According to California law, there's only one way Crystal Harris could have avoided paying her ex-husband: if he had tried to kill her.

"I just can't imagine that I would be the only woman that this might ever happen to," Crystal Harris said. "It's morally reprehensible. No rape victim should have to pay her rapist."

She wants rape and any violent felony to automatically exclude a spouse from getting a dime during a divorce.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said she is petitioning lawmakers to change the law, and she cited Crystal Harris' story as the reason.

"I wanted to change the law immediately so we can make sure this doesn't happen again in the future," Dumanis told 10News.

Under the district attorney's proposed new law, if someone is convicted of committing any violent felony against their spouse, a judge would not be allowed to order the victim to pay spousal support.

"It's the right thing to do," said Dumanis. "We in the district attorney's office are a voice for the voiceless."

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