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Court Requires Woman to Pay Alimony to Ex-Husband When He Gets Out of Prison For Sexually Assaulting Her

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A woman in Carlsbad convinced a jury that her husband should be put in prison for sexually assaulting her. But she couldn't convince a family court judge that she shouldn't have to pay spousal support to her ex-husband when he gets out of prison.

The woman Crystal Harris told ABC News her story. She said her husband Shawn Harris had abused her before, so she kept a tape recorder on hand just in case he threatened her. The recorder came in handy when he forced her to have sex with him while her children slept upstairs in their home in Carlsbad. She turned over the tape to police, and the jury convicted him on one count of forced oral copulation, which was enough to have him sent away to prison until 2014.

However, that sexual assault was not enough to convince a family court judge that Crystal Harris should be off the hook for paying her husband spousal support.

Harris makes a six-figure salary and she has been supporting her husband since their son was born in 2002. Under normal circumstances, she would be required to pay him $3,000 a month in spousal support. (Initially, Harris was asked to pay spousal support while her husband was in prison — she successfully argued that he didn't need support while he was in prison.) But when Harris tried to make the case that she shouldn't have to support a man who raped her, the judge instead knocked it down to $1,000.

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"I call that the rape discount," Harris told ABC News.

Vista Judge Gregory Pollock oversaw the divorce and he said ruling against Shawn Harris, who depended on Crystal as a breadwinner would be "an abuse of discretion."

"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.

It turns out that a spouse convicted of raping or assault his or her spouse is still entitled to spousal support. The only way a breadwinner like Harris could get off the hook is if her husband had attempted to murder her.

"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.

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Harris is coming forward with her story in the hopes of changing California law. She has an ally in San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who is petitioning lawmakers to change the law.

"I wanted to change the law immediately so we can make sure this doesn't happen again in the future," Dumanis told an ABC affiliate in San Diego.