When I changed the California divorce law in 1995, it was limited to the conviction of a spouse for attempted murder. I was told that was the only way to get it passed. It irritated me that my bill was limited as there are many types of violent felonies committed against spouses. But I was the first to challenge the no-fault divorce law and I wanted the bill to pass. So I accepted the limitation. I documented my stuggle in my book "A Dance with the Devil: A True Story of Marriage to a Psychopath."
Several years ago, a male victim rallied to have the crime of solicitation for murder added after he suffered at the hands of his wife. I was not aware of his effort, otherwise I would have testified on his behalf.
Today there is another attempt to modify my law and I wholeheartedly support the change. Imagine your spouse brutally rapes you and then you're required to pay him alimony before he goes to jail. And, you have to pay his attorney fees! Rediculous. Here's the press release that came out today and I'm honored to be included. I will be in the state capitol on Monday and Tuesday.
PRESS RELEASE (3/15/2012) Rape Victim Fights Back to Get Law Changed:No Alimony To Husband Convicted of Sexually Assaulting Her
Next Tuesday, March 20, 2012, Crystal Harris, a 39 year old successful financial analyst from Carlsbad California (San Diego County) and mother of 2 boys, will testify before the Judicial Committee of the California Assembly in support of Assembly Bill 1522 (Toni Atkins-D-San Diego) to stop the next judge from awarding alimony and attorneys fees to a spouse convicted of a violent sexual assault. In 2010, Ms. Harris’ husband was convicted by a jury of sexually assaulting her (forcible oral copulation). He is now serving a 6 year sentence at Norco State Prison. And, Ms. Harris was ordered, by San Diego Family Law Judge Gregory Pollack, to pay her husband’s attorneys fees ($47,000) and $1000/mo in alimony until her husband was imprisoned. Initially, the alimony award was $3000/mo, but, reduced due to the domestic violence. Ms. Harris calls it, the “rape discount”. The alimony is temporarily suspended while Shawn Harris is in prison and being 100% supported by taxpayers. Yet, under the current law, he will be entitled to ask for spousal support upon his release.
In 1995, Barbara Bentley fought back, too. After her husband was convicted of attempting to murder her and a judge ordered her to pay alimony and retirement and pension benefits, she fought tirelessly and successfully to get a law passed that prohibits California judges from awarding such benefits when a spouse is convicted of attempted murder or solicitation of murder. (Family Code Sections 782.5 & 4324). Ms. Bentley will also be at the hearing.
Now, Crystal Harris, along with the bill sponsor Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, California NOW, Barbara Bentley, political leaders on both sides, Crime Victims United, the California DA’s Association and many others are requesting that the law be amended to include “violent sexual felonies” as defined by Penal Code 667.5 (rape, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration, and assault with intent to commit above felonies). It’s the right thing to do to protect victims from being further traumatized.
(In California, alimony is not mandated. It is awarded at the judge’s discretion and domestic violence incidents specifically allow judges to deny it.)
HEARING for AB 1522: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 9-11 am State Capitol, Assembly Judicial Committee
Copy of AB 1522: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_1501-1550/ab_1522_bill_20120118_introduced.html
Video of Crystal Harris Interviews & news reports on trial:
http://news.yahoo.com/victim-ordered-pay-attacker-spousal-support-201444230.html (good summary)
http://www.10news.com/news/29947450/detail.html (trial facts)
MEDIA INTERVIEWS CONTACT: Crystal Harris (firstname.lastname@example.org, (760) 402-9447) is available for in-person interviews in Sacramento/Bay Area next Monday & Tuesday, and telephone interviews.
Bill Sponsor, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins at (916) 319-2076
Judicial Committee Chair, Assemblyman Mike Feuer at (916) 319-2042
Committee Vice Chair, Assemblyman Donald Wagner at (916) 319-2070