Crystal Harris was ordered by a judge to pay her rapist. Now the San Diego County woman is fighting to pass legislation in California to ensure that never happens to anyone else.
"You wouldn't have to pay your abuser, basically," said Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who has taken up Harris' cause by crafting new legislation, Assembly Bill 1522.
"This seems like something that would be a no-brainer," said Atkins, D-San Diego.
Crystal Harris' problem stems from the fact that her rapist was her husband, Shawn Michael Harris, who attacked and forced her to commit a sex act during an argument in their Carlsbad home in March 2008, records show.
Shawn Harris was convicted of the rape and sentenced to six years in prison, but separately, Crystal said that he was awarded $1,000-a-month in spousal support and a judge ordered her to pay his $47,000 in family court legal fees.
Crystal Harris, now 39, said she earned a six-figure salary as a financial adviser. Shawn had been a "stay-at-home" father for five years. The couple had two children, at the time ages 5 and 7.
"I wanted to break down," she said of the judge's payment order. "I left the courtroom crying. I was incredulous about it. I couldn't believe it happened to me. I thought I'd find justice in the courts."
Crystal Harris said she paid the $1,000-a-month spousal support for about four months before her husband was imprisoned, after which a judge halted the payments -- at least temporarily -- because his financial need had changed. She continues to make monthly payments on his legal fees, she said.
Shawn Harris currently is incarcerated at a medium-security prison in Norco. Records show a trail of threats, arguments and altercations involving the couple during their 12-year marriage, which Crystal Harris said ended after the rape.
Atkins' AB 1522 would bar a spouse convicted of rape or other violent sexual felonies from collecting spousal support, attorney fees, insurance benefits or other payments from the victim.
State law currently carves out a similar exception to spousal payments only in cases of attempted murder or solicitation for murder.
Crystal Harris said that AB 1522 is meant to benefit other spousal rape victims. It could benefit her only if Shawn Harris seeks a court order restoring spousal support once he leaves prison, she said.
AB 1522 is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Opposition to the bill has not yet surfaced, Atkins said.
* Updated at 2:30 p.m. to add quote from Crystal Harris.