Bill Protecting Spousal Assault Victims In Works

Bill Would Prevent Judge From Ordering Victim Of Spousal Abuse To Pay Spousal Support

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is trying to close a legal loophole that was first revealed by the 10News I-Team in November.

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Carlsbad resident Crystal Harris told the I-Team of how she was sexually assaulted by her ex-husband and that she had been ordered to pay him spousal support.

"I just couldn't believe it. On the face of it, it just seems illogical," Atkins said. "It was just something that resonated; her story is pretty compelling."

"He wanted to have sex and I said no," 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. Atkins said she is trying to change that.

"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."

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis petitioned lawmakers to change the law, and she told 10News, "I wanted to change the law immediately so we can make sure this doesn't happen again in the future."

Under the 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.

Atkins is now looking for a Republican co-sponsor so the bill will be bipartisan.

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