Victim Ordered to Pay Attacker Spousal Support

Crystal Harris' ex-husband was convicted of sexually assaulting her.

ByABC News
November 3, 2011, 4:14 PM

Nov. 4, 2011— -- She was forced to have sex with him, and now she's being forced to pay his bills.

Crystal Harris of Carlsbad, Calif., had been financially supporting her unemployed, abusive husband Shawn Harris for years. But after he sexually assaulted her in 2008, she took him to court.

The jury heard a damning audiotape of the attack secretly recorded by Crystal Harris, and her husband was convicted of forced oral copulation.

Even so, in 2010, the year their divorce became finalized, he requested spousal support. The judge awarded him $1,000 a month, and also asked Crystal Harris to pay $47,000 of her ex-husband's legal fees from the divorce proceedings.

"It stunned me and I think it's shocking," said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who is fighting to close a loophole in the law that allows judges to exercise this kind of judicial discretion. "It's a priority for our office."

Harris, who turned 39 Thursday, makes between $110,000 and $120,000 a year as a financial analyst, and says she has been supporting her husband -- a former car salesman -- ever since their first son was born in 2002.

Under normal circumstances, Harris would have been required to pay $3,000 a month in spousal support after the divorce, but because of the domestic violence she endured, the judge said he would lower that amount to $1,000.

"I call that the rape discount," Harris said.

She appealed the judge's ruling, pointing out that her ex-husband will have no expenses while he's in jail.

The judge agreed, but when Shawn Harris, 40, is released from Donovan State Prison in 2014, he's entitled to ask for spousal support again. And California law entitles him to have it.

"I met him when I was 20 and head over heels in love," Crystal Harris said. "To this day I feel brokenhearted about the fact that this has all happened. I'm not happy about the way my life has turned out."

A Marriage Unravels

Crystal Harris and her husband began experiencing marital difficulties early on. They married in 1996, but by 1998 Harris said he had started abusing her. She got in a fight with her then-husband and "he grabbed the steering wheel and just reached over and backhanded me."

"I had always been the type of woman who said if a man hits me I'm out of there," Harris said.

So she filed for divorce, and got a restraining order -- but the divorce never happened.

"He was so apologetic and seemed reformed," she said. "Things were good for a long time and it wasn't until really after our son was born in 2002 that he started showing his true colors again. And it really just started to continue to escalate a little at a time."

The physical abuse resulted in several 911 calls during their 12 year marriage.

"Things really got bad in 2005 with the birth of our second son," Harris said. "He was born within a month of [Shawn Harris'] father dying," she said. "If there is anyone on the face of the Earth he gave a damn about, it was his dad."

She filed for divorce again in 2007, the same year she says her then-husband gave her this warning: "If you ever leave me or threaten to leave me I will kill you."

"And he was so deadly serious -- he's just one of those people where you just know if he's serious," she said. "And I believed him and if I ever addressed the subject with him -- like if we had a tender moment -- he never backed down from it. I was just dumbstruck."